AASA President Chris Gaines sees evidence of transformative leadership at work in school communities across the nation. Unfortunately, those efforts are not often recognized by others so during his presidential address Thursday afternoon, he told AASA conference attendees they need to do something about those perceptions.
During his remarks at the conference’s 1st General Session, Gaines took particular aim at those who serve in elected office and make key decisions affecting K-12 public schooling.
“Too many policy makers think school still looks like desks and chairs in rows because that was their experience. You probably know a lawmaker who thinks just that,” said the superintendent of the Mehlville School District in St. Louis, Mo., in his prepared text shared with Conference Daily Online. “If so, it’s our fault. We’ve got to get them into our schools. They must understand what we do. Policy makers must understand that our children are more than test scores.”
He hopes policy makers someday “will realize that the health and well-being of children is more important than their GPA or ACT score. It’s up to us to make that happen.”
Gaines, who serves as AASA president until June 30, also encouraged those in the audience to connect with colleagues from other communities. He referred to a superintendent colleague who at the 2015 AASA conference started the hashtag #50supts as he made it his goal to meet a superintendent from every state.
He added: “Each leader here has a successful practice or program to share. Each of us is here to learn.”
Throughout his General Session speech, Gaines emphasized the notion, adopted as AASA’s theme in 2019, that leaders matter and make a difference in K-12 education.
”Whether it is in a classroom, principal’s office or the district office, we need great leaders,” his prepared text said. “The teacher leaders of today will be the building and district leaders of tomorrow.”
Gaines added: “One need only look to Twitter and superintendent blogs to see the awesome things happening across the nation. The nation’s superintendents, our members, are engaged at unprecedented levels.”
As evidence, he pointed to AASA’s own professional development programs, many of them new in the last one or two years.
“Over 30 districts have been involved in AASA’s efforts to expand school breakfast participation. More than 20 districts have worked to redesign professional development. Over 50 districts have been involved in the Digital Consortium. Over 40 districts have been involved in the Personalized Learning Cohort. And the list goes on,” Gaines said.
(Jay Goldman is editor of AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)