AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech, acknowledging the wicked challenges confronting public school leaders nationwide, told the large crowd at the 2022 national conference’s 1st General Session that their professional association is “doing all we can to support you.”
In his remarks that opened the session, Domenech referenced a number of ways AASA has mobilized to support superintendents facing challenges to COVID-19 mitigation and racial equity work in their schools.
Here in Nashville, he urged attendees to visit the Health & Wellness Center in the exhibit hall, a component of the AASA’s Live Well, Lead Well campaign to provide appreciation, hope and support.
“Conference goers can recharge and relax in this special area of the exhibit hall dedicated to mental, physical and emotional well-being,” he said. “You’ll be able to pet some dogs, take a brain break in a quiet pod, relax during a massage, burn some energy on the electric bike smoothie maker, make a snack at the build-your-own granola station and more.”
He also asked those in his audience to participate in a 10-question wellness screening to find out whether their stress levels registered as low, moderate or high. He intends to report on the findings at the 2nd General Session on Friday.
(To take the survey, visit StressTest.live or scan the QR code at one of the signs located throughout the convention center.)
Domenech pointed to several other ways AASA was backing up leadership efforts at local school districts:
- He referenced AASA’s Learning 2025 framework as a path for local schools to deliver a more student-centered and equity-focused approach to learning.
- He mentioned AASA’s American Rescue Plan Committee created in the past year to work with partners to develop resources that can help districts make effective use of all of their available federal resources.
- He noted how AASA public policy staff has worked with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education “to convey your needs and to help you overcome the obstacles you face.”
Domenech said he feared the leadership drain that he’s seen evidence of since the start of the public health crisis. He hopes AASA’s support of the profession will stem some of those losses.
“Many of you have been subject to verbal abuse, threats against you, and worse, threats against your families,” he said. “The pressures of the job have led to too many of our colleagues leaving the profession either willingly or forced out by their boards. I am concerned about the leadership drain this is causing at a time when education needs the best leaders. And it’s not just superintendents, it’s principals, teachers — a significant depletion of the education workforce. Staffing shortages is now on your plate as well.”
(Jay P. Goldman is editor-in-chief of Conference Daily Online and editor of AASA’s School Administrator magazine.)