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AASA Cohort Graduates Get a Warm Sendoff at Conference Reception

At a Thursday evening graduation ceremony at the 2020 AASA National Conference on Education, the cohorts of four professional training programs received honors and congratulations.

It was a moment to pass the baton from former superintendents to the next generation of leaders. Several former superintendents shared advice about tackling the demands of the superintendency and encouragement.

Mary Ellen Elia, former superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida who recently retired as state education commissioner of New York, recalled that in the 50 years of working in education, inequities in funding have not improved. Despite working hard, the job of educators hasn’t gotten easier.

Elia believed the leadership preparation they’ve received from AASA will serve them well. But the job is one that you can’t do alone.

Superintendents need a network of friends to support and advise them. It was not a job she did alone. As a superintendent in Hillsborough, Elia said candidly that not a day went by when she didn’t have something unexpected pop up that she knew nothing about.

“Keep your friends on speed dial,” Elia said. “Change is going to be part of your life.” She urged the new graduates to become leaders who are continuously learning and who are willing to listen to people who have great ideas.

Six years ago, the idea of an Urban Superintendents Academy was launched with Howard University. On Thursday, graduates celebrated completion of studies with the Urban Superintendents Academy affiliated with the University of Southern California; the Urban Superintendents Academy of Howard University; the National Certification Program for Superintendents (Blended Learning and regular model); and Aspiring Superintendents Program.

AASA is recruiting for new cohorts. Visit

(Liz Griffin is senior reporter for AASA’s Conference Daily Online and managing editor of School Administrator.)

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