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Cruz, in AASA Presidential Address, Personalizes the ’24 Conference Theme With Visual Connections to Her Own Family

AASA President Gladys Cruz speaks during the 2nd General Session of the National Conference on Education. Photo by Sandy Huffaker.

The 2024 AASA National Conference on Education theme is Here for the Kids. AASA President Gladys Cruz wants everyone to fully understand what that means. It’s much more than a marketing slogan used to promote this year’s event.

She used her presidential address, at the start of the conference’s 2nd General Session on Friday morning, to explain her meaning.

“To me, it is not just a slogan or hashtag, but rather a vow and commitment etched in our hearts and minds,” said Cruz in the 10-minute speech. “Here for the Kids means being part of our learners’ learning journeys, building environments that ignite curiosity, nurture talents, develop critical thinking, leverage partnerships and precious resources, and equip learners with the tools needed to navigate an ever-changing world.”

She attempted to personalize her message through a one-minute video that showed her four grandchildren, ranging in grades from kindergarten to 12th grade. “Each one of them is like the learners we serve in elementary, middle and high school across our school systems – so full of energy, wonder and promise. They have big dreams and aspirations.”

A few other excerpts from her remarks:

“As school leaders, we must continue to be the champions of all students within our districts. Not just most, but all. This is not a new notion – just think back to your own school experience.
“It could be the shy learner in the back row, the child struggling with a learning disability, the gifted learner looking for something more or the kid who just moved that doesn’t know anyone else.

“It is learners attending specialized programs such as career and technical education and Special Education – or accelerated programs like New Visions, which is available to high school seniors across New York State.

“It is learners attending regional public high schools like Tech Valley High School – a member of the New Tech Network, which includes more than 350 schools in 37 states – and the Questar III & HVCC STEM High School, a dual P-TECH, and Early College High School where learners can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost to their families.

“It is the learners who attend the many innovative schools we find across our country, like the West MEC Southwest Campus school I visited in Arizona last fall.”

Returning to the conference theme, Cruz challenged her colleagues to personalize it as well, “from your kids or grandkids’ points of view or someone you know and care about deeply. Please continue to put our learners first and put yourselves in the others’ shoes for empathy and understanding.”

Cruz is the superintendent of the Questar BOCES in eastern New York state.

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