Conference Daily Online

AASA's award-winning newsletter, providing daily coverage of events, photos and video clips of the conference.
Close this search box.

Equity and Excellence atop the Menu as Always at the Dr. Effie H. Jones Memorial Equity Luncheon

Ruth Perez, deputy superintendent of the Riverside County, California Office of Education, left, and Zandra Jo Galván, superintendent of the Greenfield, California Union School District look on as, Francisco Duran, superintendent of the Arlington Virginia Public Schools, right, a winner of the Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, delivers his speech during the Dr. Effie Hall Jones Memorial Equity Luncheon, at the National Conference on Education at the San Diego Convention Center, Feb. 16, 2024. Photo by Howard Lipin.

“We can. We will. We must.”

That was the message of award recipient Alena Zachery-Ross at the Dr. Effie Hall Jones Memorial Equity Lunch on Friday at AASA’s National Conference on Education.

The annual luncheon, held at the AASA national conference, remembers Jones, who was a teacher, counselor and school administrator for 15 years and served as an associate executive director at AASA, promoting the interests of minority educators and children.

The 2024 winners of the Dr. Jones Humanitarian Awards were Francisco Durán, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, Va., and Zachery-Ross, who is superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Zachery-Ross talked about continuing the work of Jones by lifting up women and leaders of color. She implored the superintendents in the audience to become “unstoppable leaders” that consistently remove barriers, provide support and elevate young leaders in the field.

Alena Zachery-Ross, superintendent of the Ypsilanti, Michigan Community Schools, a winner of the Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, delivers her speech during the 2024 Dr. Effie Hall Jones Memorial Equity Luncheon. Photo by Howard Lipin.

Durán asked the approximately luncheon participants to remember the reason they got into the field of education at the beginning of their career – to focus on their “why.” He took time to reflect on the lessons he learned from his mentor, the late Arlene Ackerman, a former superintendent and the 2011 winner of the Jones Humanitarian Award. Durán said she would text him often to keep him grounded in the true work of the superintendency with a simple question: “What did you do for kids today?”

The event’s keynote was delivered by Freeman Hrabowski III, who spent 30 years as president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County before a recent retirement. He spoke of his journey from Birmingham, Ala., in the 1950s and ‘60s through his success in mathematics and science and onto a university presidency. He reminded those in the audience that they are always “teachers first” and that superintendents serve as representatives of America’s children.

Hrabowski insisted real leadership requires vision, planning, transparency and hope. The job is to ensure the staff, board and community understand the vision and plan, get transparent updates on progress and have hope for success. Hrabowski led a call and response with the more than 300 attendees to reinforce the lessons that our thoughts become our words; our words turn into our actions; our actions become habits; our habits make up our character; and our character foretells our destiny.

AASA President Gladys Cruz opened the luncheon with a welcome, along with the presidents of luncheon co-host organizations Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and National Alliance of Black School Educators. AASA Executive Director David Schuler closed the luncheon by thanking leaders in the room for the work they do to build inclusive school systems and for lifting each other up.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Institute for Education Innovation.

(Bryan Joffe is AASA director of children’s programs.)

Share this story
Related Posts