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With Giddy Delight, Schuler Delivers His First State of the Association Report to AASA’s Governing Board

AASA Executive Director David Schuler delivers his state of the association speech Wednesday, Feb. 14. Photo by Jimmy Minichello.

In his inaugural state-of-the-association speech, Executive Director David Schuler shared with the Governing Board on Wednesday morning a blizzard of initiatives that AASA is advancing to better address the field of school system leadership and the greater challenges of serving students’ academic and associated needs.

In a 45-minute address to about 115 members of AASA’s governing body, Schuler delivered a fast-paced report that portrayed the professional association as largely in tune with its members’ wide-ranging needs while pursuing new thinking and robust actions to address the external forces buffeting public education.

This was Schuler’s first opportunity to deliver what’s essentially an annual report on the fiscal and programming health of the organization. He took over the executive director position about two weeks after the 2023 AASA National Conference on Education.

Titling his speech “Forward to the Future,” Schuler placed particular emphasis on the vital role he wants AASA to play in the immediate future to “change the narrative” about public schools’ vital role in American society and their capacity to impact student outcomes for the better.

He indicated that work would be tackled strategically, led by one of his most recent hires, Erin McCallum, to a new post as associate executive director for strategy and communications. The work will be performed in an environment marked by several environmental factors:

  • the so-called “fiscal cliff,” owing to the end this fall of American Rescue Plan funds for public schools.
  • the precarious state of student mental health; and
  • chronic absenteeism and aberrant student behavior.

On the federal advocacy front, Schuler lauded the association’s “rock star advocacy team,” led by associate executive director Noelle Ellerson Ng, before reeling off a summary of their accomplishments, including the introduction of the All Children Are Equal ​Act, AASA’s Title I formula fix.

On the association’s membership and fiscal health fronts, Schuler was almost giddy when delivering an upbeat data in his series of PowerPoint slides. “When they’re good, I get to talk about them,” he quipped, suggesting he might leave the news to others if the numbers weren’t so rosy.

Total membership in 2023-24 has cleared 10,500 (with 8,288 of them considered voting, or active level, members), he said, while the number of new members who’ve come on board since July exceeds last year’s total during the time frame by about 300.

AASA’s expanding partnerships with corporate entities and foundations are playing a major part in the current financial strength, and he pointed to the work of partnerships coordinator Tammy Barbara for those successes.

Public communication with members and others remains strong with a recently refurbished website, the start of the Future Driven Leader podcast and the enduring strength of the association’s monthly magazine, School Administrator. “It’s a must read for me whenever it hits my desk,” he said, pledging the magazine would remain a print publication at a time when so many others have become digital products.

The association’s constantly expanding Leadership Network, he said, was playing a central role in helping AASA transform public education. That network is responsible for more than 40 professional academies and cohorts, through the work of about 60 lead consultants and 55 mentors. During the past year, those programs brought in $4.7 million in revenue, Schuler reported.

His priorities for the year ahead, he said, include coordinating a theory of action behind everything the organization undertakes, improving financial connections and services and maintaining the growth of the Leadership Network, including development of regional network innovation hubs.

Maintaining his buoyant delivery of the association’s current status, Schuler wrapped up by delivering positive figures about the 2024 national conference in San Diego. Paid registrations cleared 3,460 at the start of the week, a gain of more than 600 over 2023, with 492 booths sold in the exhibit hall and more than $540,000 in corporate sponsorships.

 “I’m so honored to serve as your executive director,” Schuler said. “We’re going to continue to push the envelope.”

(Jay Goldman is editor-in-chief of Conference Daily Online and AASA’s School Administrator magazine.) 

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