California Rain Turns to Gold at National Conference on Education

A steady rain and unseasonably cold temperatures in Los Angeles did not put a damper on the 2019 National Conference on Education.

Off in the distance from our hotel, one could spot the infamous Hollywood sign perched on the Santa Monica Mountains. They say Hollywood is where the stars are. As far as I was concerned, the only stars that mattered were the 2,000 superintendents and other administrators who joined us in the City of Angels to celebrate excellence in school system leadership.

Congratulations to Curtis Jones, superintendent of Georgia’s Bibb County Schools for being named the 2019 National Superintendent of the Year®. Here’s a man who spent the first 20 years of his professional life serving in the U.S. Army and now is dedicated to providing the highest quality education to the students he serves.

Let me also congratulate Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent of Michigan’s Oakland Schools, and Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for Miami-Dade Schools, for winning top honors in our Women in School Leadership Awards.

Congratulations as well to the 2019 recipients of our annual Dr. Effie H. Jones Award, a recognition of school leaders who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of equity and the advancement of women in education. Honorees included Wanda Cook-Robinson; Traci Davis, superintendent of Washoe County School District in Nevada; and Karl Hertz, past president of AASA and retired superintendent of Mequon-Thiensville School District in Wisconsin.

It wasn’t too long ago when our national conference convened over the course of three days. Today, with the expansion of our leadership services, our annual gathering, from beginning to end, stretches for about a week.

A few short years ago, we offered just two leadership cohorts. Today, that number has swelled to more than 35, mobilizing more than 2,000 superintendents as well as those aspiring to become superintendents. Participation spans all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We were thrilled to recognize the outstanding educators who successfully completed the National Superintendent Certification Program®, Aspiring Superintendent Academy® and the Urban Superintendents Academy®. At a time when public education continues to be put under the microscope, I am so pleased that dozens of men and women who wish to grow their professional careers on behalf of students in their respective communities were honored for completing our rigorous professional development programs.

The award winners and program participants are all champions for children. They are leaders who matter. They are ambassadors of our campaign, showcasing exemplary leadership. I am proud of each and every one of them.

I thank our three General Session speakers—former U.S. National Security Advisor and Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice; Bill Daggett, the founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education; and former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott. We owe each of them a debt of gratitude for joining us.

A final thank you to all the public education leaders who made the journey to Los Angeles for our special event. We hope you enjoyed the conference as much as I did. The AASA family looks forward to seeing you in San Diego for the 2020 National Conference on Education.

For wall-to-wall coverage of AASA’s 2019 national conference, visit Conference Daily Online.  

Dan Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

A Comparison Between Public & Private Schools on the International Seminar

This year’s AASA International Seminar took our group of superintendents to Ecuador. This was not our first journey to South America and we found education in Ecuador to be very similar to what we have seen in Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Chile.

AASA President Chris Gaines and Executive Director Dan Domenech with children from the Milenio School in Guano, Ecuador.

Like their neighbors, Ecuador’s public schools serve primarily the poor while the middle class and up tend to send their children to private schools. We visited two such schools, the American International School in Quito and the Vigotsky School in Riobamba.

The International school is truly a model of outstanding education. Catering to the children of American diplomats and those that can afford the $18,000 per-year tuition, the school offers programs to infants through high school. We were very impressed by the college-like campus and the quality of the teachers and administrators.

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A Visit to Unidad Educativa del Milenio GUANO during the AASA International Seminar

A guest blog post by Amy Sichel and Gladys Cruz

Today, we began our school visits at the Unidad Educativa del Milenio GUANO, a Pre-K to high school, housed in a four-and-a-half year-old government-built facility. The school has an enrollment of 630 students who previously attended seven different smaller schools now consolidated into one new building.

The children attend school from September 4 through July 10 and live in the area of Guano. Some children are bused to school.

As superintendents from across the U.S., we appreciate the opportunity to see the value placed on education in other countries. Clearly, other countries often aspire to provide a mandatory education for all, as we do.

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Next Stop on the 2018 AASA International Seminar: A School on San Cristobal Island in Galapagos

A guest post by Gladys Cruz

I ventured to visit schools on a hot sunny morning on the island. Not knowing if I would be given entrance to the schools, I decided to take the risk and was joined by David Woolly, the superintendent of the Alma School District in Alma, Ark.

Given the lure around Charles Darwin on the Galápagos Islands, I was immediately attracted to visiting the Carlos Darwin School. Upon arrival, a native from Ecuador greeted us.

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First Stop on the 2018 AASA International Seminar: Academia Cotopaxi

A guest post by AASA Past President Amy Sichel

The AASA International Seminar is always a meaningful experience for superintendents. During this year’s trip, we are learning about the culture and history of Ecuador, which includes the opportunity to visit schools. The value added is traveling with fellow superintendents from across our country, making connections and learning from each other.

Superintendents on the AASA International Seminar listen to a presentation at the American International School in Quito, Ecuador.

Our first school visit was to Academia Cotopaxi, an American International School, educating children from 12-months-old to high school. This school has a beautiful campus and is located in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. The Academia is a private, English-based international school. The parents of many of the children who attend are stationed in Quito either through the embassy or are U.S. government officials. The children come from 38 different countries with a total enrollment of 850. Fifty-eight percent of the students are international, 42 percent are from Ecuador and 22 percent are from North America. The tuition is $18,000 per student.

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Back-to-School: Start Spreading the News

As long as I’ve been working in public education, this time of year has always been very special. On behalf of the entire AASA family, we hope our superintendents and those aspiring to become superintendents have a fantastic school year filled with the creation of positive solutions that will translate into greater academic outcomes for our students.

I’ve been saying for years that superintendents are the nation’s foremost thought leaders in public education. Last week, our school system leaders spoke out about some very critical issues that directly affect the lives of our students. We need to listen to what was said and do something about it.

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AASA President: Huge ‘Gaines’ for Public Education

July is always a special time for AASA. Hundreds of superintendents across the country—some of the sharpest minds in public education—gathered in the nation’s capital last week to discuss some of the most critical issues in public education as part of our annual Legislative Advocacy Conference.

The meeting marked three days of invaluable conversation focusing on such hot-button issues as school safety, appropriations, career and technical education, the Higher Education Act, teacher shortages, IDEA and Medicaid. AASA members—individuals I often refer to as “champions for children”—made their voices heard by visiting members of Congress from their respective districts and states to share opinions on these important matters.

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Shining Lights in Public Education

(Pictured from left to right: David Schuler, Amy Sieu, Daniel Domenech, Wendy Robinson, Mike Winstead.)

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, recently announced the four finalists for the 2018 Superintendent of the Year, a program graciously sponsored by VALIC and First Student. This is our opportunity to showcase four champions for children and put outstanding school district leaders from communities large and small on the national stage. It marks a time to place the spotlight on the superintendency — a profession I often say is the most difficult job in America, yet the most rewarding.

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A Long, Hot Summer

Some of the images we’re seeing on television and stories we’re reading about in our local newspapers are describing some of the most disappointing and disheartening moments in the history of our country.

What has made it even more alarming? The violence, compounded with the flurry of discussions focusing on bigotry and hate, come at a time when we should be focusing on a more exciting time — the start of a new school year.

Make no mistake that these incidents are on the minds of every superintendent, principal, teacher and any other advocate for public education. Walk into any supermarket, bakery, barbershop, beauty salon or gas station and I would be surprised if people aren’t talking about it. The question remains, as I mentioned in a recent press statement, how do the leaders of the more than 13,000 public school systems pull through?

Once again, let me thank AASA members for the outstanding work they do in preparing our nation’s young people for the unique demands and challenges they will undoubtedly face in their lives beyond high school.

The examples of outstanding work being done by our superintendents are endless, but let me pinpoint just a few. I invite you to take a listen to the latest AASA Radio segment. Matt Utterback, the superintendent of Oregon’s North Clackamas School District and the 2017 AASA National Superintendent of the Year®, rightly points out that the academic success of the generations of students of tomorrow, is equally, if not more important to the academic success of students in our schools today.

Earlier this summer, Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District 89, was sworn in as the 2017-18 president of AASA. An outstanding leader in every sense, Gail proudly asserts the importance of redefining, redesigning and reimagining teaching and learning environments in our schools as a way to improve the overall quality of our school systems and communities.

 

Finally, in late July, Illinois superintendents Mike Lubelfeld (Deerfield Public School District 109) and Nick Polyak (Leyden High School District 212) successfully led AASA’s Digital Consortium summer meeting in suburban Chicago, where dozens of administrators engaged in meaningful dialogue about model digital transitions to improve student achievement.

AASA recently launched its I Love Public Education (#LovePublicEducation) campaign, an on-going effort to highlight why public schools are essential to developing the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. Shortly following the Labor Day holiday, we will formally introduce another section of our website that provides a collection of resources about equity for school system leaders at all levels to help them and their teams succeed.

Who could’ve imagined the inflammable rhetoric that has taken place in our nation over the past few days? Not many of us could have foreseen the most fundamental fabric of our country — the public schools in our communities — being threatened by the ugliness of the actions that have been carried out by a selected few.

I am unboundedly confident that despite the rhetoric, our nation’s public school system leaders will rise to the occasion. They will speak out about the value of the public schools in their respective communities. They will speak out about the partnership that we, as educators, have with families throughout our urban, suburban and rural communities. This is a partnership to ensure that all children in these communities will receive the quality education that they deserve and that they are entitled to.

 

Daniel A. Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.   

Four Bright Stars in Public Education

The four finalists for the 2017 AASA National Superintendent of the Year participating in a panel discussion on current trends in education on Thursday, Jan. 12 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

While educators continue to wonder about the impact that the incoming administration will have on education, I’m excited about four of the brightest stars in public education. These individuals visited the nation’s capital earlier this month. I’m referring to the finalists for the 2017 National Superintendent of the Year.

AASA’s executive committee joined me in hosting these champions for children during our press conference at the National Press Club. Without a doubt, choosing the eventual honoree will be a tough task for our blue-ribbon panel of judges.

Our finalists have tremendous passion for what they do. Here is an excerpt of what they shared, demonstrating their commitment to their work and more importantly, their commitment to the students they serve:

Barbara Jenkins, Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools: “It’s reaffirming to our community and to our schools that we’re headed in the right direction, that we’re doing work that is recognized at a national level. I want to commend every superintendent across this nation because they do such critical work for our young people.”

Stewart McDonald, Kodiak Island Borough (Alaska) School District: “Our schools are such a central component of every one of our towns. Businesses are involved in our schools, our communities are involved in our schools so this feels like a validation of the incredible work we have formed in our collaborative partnerships.”

James Merrill, Wake County (N.C.) Public School System: “Public education in America is one of the last great institutions. It is what delivers our people to be enlightened and informed adults to preserve our democracy.”

Matthew Utterback, North Clackamas (Ore.) School District: “It’s an incredible honor to represent our school district and the state of Oregon. Our success in our school district has really been a collaborative and team effort. The National Superintendent of the Year has the opportunity to share stories, to share learning, to share the good work that is happening across our country.”

Hundreds of superintendents and other school system leaders will convene in New Orleans, March 2-4, where the eventual honoree will be announced during Day 1 of our National Conference on Education.

I invite you to view our latest video where you’ll hear more from Superintendents Jenkins, McDonald, Merrill and Utterback.

AASA is grateful to Aramark and VALIC for serving as co-sponsors of the National Superintendent of the Year program.

Dan Domenech is the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.