Conference week began for me with the meeting of the Governing Board on Wednesday.
Superintendents representing colleagues from around the country gathered to receive reports on the activities of our organization, and to discuss and act upon our 2020 AASA Legislative Agenda, continued revisions to our Beliefs and Position statements, and issues of concern from our seven regional areas. Additionally, we had an opportunity to hear from and receive information from the two nominees for President-Elect moving forward. Paul Imhoff of Ohio and Candace Singh of California presented themselves for consideration in the general election, and I can say that in either case we are going to be in good hands with our next president-elect. I encourage you to attend Friday’s General Session to hear both candidates address the general membership, and I remind you that electronic voting opens on Friday.
Executive Director Dan Domenech reported to the Board and shared exciting work occurring through advocacy, communication, professional learning and organizationally over this past year. He highlighted the importance of our advocacy on The Hill and drew particular notice to three amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court this year in three important cases: the DACA case, the Census case, and most important to me, the Espinoza case, which will decide whether public funds will be drawn away from public education and diverted to private schools. It is our strong position as an organization that this should not occur. Dan also noted recent recognitions received by School Administrator, our flagship publication, which has seen increased circulation and advertising sales this past year, and he highlighted the many professional learning opportunities we provide, including this conference, which is seeing record attendance this year with the highest levels of registrations, exhibitors and sponsorships ever recorded.
Noelle Ellerson-Ng, Association Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy, also reported on our proposed legislative agenda, which highlights the important role the federal government can play in creating equitable learning opportunities for all students, including the need to: ensure an appropriate federal/state/local balance, support all students and families and special populations, support personnel, strengthen district operations, support students through appropriate curriculum and assessments, and enhance district technology and student data privacy. Most importantly and most exciting to me, was the inclusion in this agenda of the line, “privatization of public education funding undermines our nation’s public school system, denies equitable educational opportunity and represents failed federal policy.” I am proud to sit on the board of an organization that states this concern so clearly, and I look forward to continuing to defend this value. Noelle also shepherded us through the challenging work of getting 122 superintendents to come to consensus on revisions to our belief and position statements, and I admire her patience and her ability in this effort.
I was happy to join with my colleagues and friends from Region 7 for the breakout portion of our meeting, in which we reviewed both of the above presentations, discussed regional concerns, and reconnected with old friends. I was, as always, impressed by the commitment of my colleagues and happy to contribute to the discussion. We noted regional concerns over the lack of access our students and families have to mental health providers, discussed ways that schools are stepping up to fill that gap and address that problem, and reiterated our concerns not just over the likelihood that public dollars may soon be diverted to private schools, but also over the rising message that “government schools” are failing our children and the repeated use of the euphemisms of “educational freedom” and “school choice” as cover for a policy position that undermines the financial and moral support our schools need and deserve.
Both the legislative agenda and revisions to the beliefs and position statements were approved by the full board, as was a well-thought-out and timely (and small) increase to member dues.
I appreciated the time and the commitment of the Governing Board in putting in a full day, pre-conference, to the important work of the organization as a whole, and I am looking forward to the full conference as it kicks off tomorrow. I am happy to be one member of this record-setting group in attendance here in San Diego this week, and I look forward to seeing you all.