• "What We Do"  

    I started working in my current district as a teacher 22 years ago. During my first full week, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. I did not own a cell phone and neither did most of my students. As the day progressed and the school gradually emptied of kids, I gave up trying to teach and instead grabbed a cassette player that also boasted a radio dial and antenna, and just listened to the WCBS broadcast on the am 880 channel with my students. There was no script for what we were dealing with.


    I became superintendent in 2012. A few months into the job, Hurricane Sandy hit. After a week with schools shut and one elementary school still without electricity, we made the decision on a Sunday morning to redistribute the 500 students at that school throughout the other five buildings in the district and do the best we could. We were off script again. 


    A month or so after our schools had all reopened, a deranged man with an AR-15 murdered 26 young children and school staff members in Newtown, Connecticut.  While not the first mass school shooting we had experienced as school professionals, this one somehow felt different.  There was no script for how to best respond.


    In early 2020, I heard the term “coronavirus” for the first time in my life. The ensuing two years left everyone scriptless. 


    It is one thing to be without a script when others direct you what to do next. It is another thing to be the one directing. As superintendents and school leaders, we have all come to understand that there is no playbook, or guide, or handbook, or syllabus, or instruction manual for how to run a school system. Guidance and advice from other organizations, agencies, or individuals is insufficient and does not an education make. We make the education. We direct the governmental institution nearest and most impactful to many families, and we make the decisions that create the conditions for students to learn and thrive. We author the script.


    As we enter a new school year, there will surely be forces that we have yet to encounter: the growing footprint of artificial intelligence, a yet-to-be manufactured political crisis, an unusual natural disaster, or something heretofore unthinkable. And we will continue to respond and adapt, serve our communities as best we can, and reason our way through the haze to provide children with rich and meaningful educational experiences.  We will continue to author the script.


    The job of school leader is often lonely, but working in association with others in the furtherance of the above brings me reassurance and energy. I look forward to our work as a collective professional community in 2023/2024, whatever may come our way.




    Mike LaSusa
    2023-2024 NJASA President