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Using Brown Deer to Deliver Points, AASA President-Elect States Her Case on Leadership

Deborah Kerr, AASA’s president-elect, drew on her own experiences as superintendent of a school district of modest means to set a course for her year at the helm of her professional association.

Her remarks were made at the 3rd General Session of AASA’s national conference. She will be installed in July as AASA president.

“As we have learned this week, effective leadership means more than simply knowing what to do,” she said. “It means knowing when, how and why to do it.”

She said her top priority “will be to advance your leadership to promote equity and to support you in your respective roles to inspire, innovate and lead greatly.”

Kerr is the superintendent in Brown Deer, Wis., a first-ring suburb of Milwaukee that enrolls 1,600 students at two schools. She said three-fourths are students of color and about 50 percent qualify as poor under federal poverty standards.

Brown Deer has long been a racially integrated community, a point that she raised throughout her remarks.

The community, she said, “has learned to embrace diversity through our children and families by helping us to serve all students who come through our doors — even those loveable and unpredictable middle school students!”

She added: “Brown Deer is a microcosm of what America should be, with diversity of age, economic backgrounds and culture. Everything we do with promoting equity in our schools is intentional. It truly does take a village to raise our children and create thriving schools.”

Kerr harped on the issue of zip codes, noting how they define the opportunities available to young people and greatly influence their direction in life.

“Brown Deer’s zip code is 53223. Only 8 miles to the south is 53206 — one of the poorest and challenged neighborhoods in Milwaukee. This zip code incarcerates the highest percentage of black men in America. Think about your zip code — what if a few numbers were transposed or in a different order. Your life may be very different,” she said.

As she concluded her remarks, Kerr put forward this aspiration: “What I hope is that with all deliberate speed we address inequities and white privilege with a sense of urgency. We must accept our kids where they are in their educational journey and believe in them to excel. We must share our stories about these complex issues to create more understanding not hate. All means all in educating our students — not just the rich ones or the lucky ones but maximizing the potential of each child that we serve.”

(Conference Daily Online Staff. ) 

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