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Conference’s Final Keynote Address Stresses Importance of Leadership and Literacy in a Future-Focused School Environment

Sue Szachowicz, senior fellow and education consultant at Successful Practices Network, gave the keynote speech at the 3rd General Session Saturday. Photo by Jimmy Minichello.

Moving forward with a future focus is imperative, but not at the expense of disregarding “what we know works,” said Sue Szachowicz, in delivering the final keynote address during the 3rd General Session Saturday of the 2023 AASA National Conference on Education in San Antonio.

Drawing on her vast experience in public education from high school graduate to deputy superintendent in Brockton, Mass., and her work with Successful Practices Network in Ballston Spa, N.Y., Szachowicz said it’s imperative that school leaders stay laser-focused on leaders and literacy. Alternative certification is rising, which means “we can no longer depend just on our universities for teacher preparation,” Szachowicz said.

Coming off pandemic difficulties and with teacher shortages and retention issues rising, it’s clear that “adults are struggling,” and paying attention to their needs will result in better outcomes for students as well, she said.

In opening her remarks, Szachowicz reviewed key points raised at the conference throughout its many sessions and presentations. Heard was the need to cultivate and retain leaders; to bring on board “lots” of principals; to trust and inspire, not command and control, the subject of Stephen M.R. Covey’s keynote address one day prior; and to use data to drive leadership and accountability and to measure what matters most.

With disruptive technologies and other societal shifts, it’s imperative not only to prepare students for their future, but to imagine in doing that a future that does not yet exist. The path is rich with challenges and potential. Toward that end, Szachowicz gave final words of advice.

“The No. 1 thing I know from my long time in education, leadership is not a position,” she said. “It’s about a disposition and about how you act. Pick one or two high-leverage strategies and communicate them constantly.”

(Linda Chion is a senior editor with Conference Daily Online and a freelance editor and writer in Lithia, Fla.)

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