•  "School"    

    Like many superintendents, I gather my administrative team together at the end of each school year for a retreat. We debrief on the year, brainstorm ideas for getting better, and decompress. This year, I played the following two songs at the end of our first day and asked everyone to read the lyrics as they listened.

    We’re Going to Be Friends—The White Stripes

    Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell

    Brand new shoes, walking blues, climb the fence, books and pens

    I can tell that we are gonna be friends


    Walk with me, Suzy Lee, through the park and by the tree

    We will rest upon the ground and look at all the bugs we found

    Safely walk to school without a sound


    Here we are, no one else, we walked to school all by ourselves

    There’s dirt on our uniforms from chasing all the ants and worms

    We clean up and now it’s time to learn


    Numbers, letters, learn to spell, nouns and books, and show and tell

    Playtime we will throw the ball

    Back to class, through the hall

    Teacher marks our height against the wall


    We don’t notice any time pass

    We don’t notice anything

    We sit side by side in every class

    Teacher thinks that I sound funny, but she likes the way you sing


    Tonight I’ll dream while I’m in bed, when silly thoughts go through my head

    About the bugs and alphabet, and when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet

    That you and I will walk together again

    ‘Cause I can tell that we are gonna be friends

    I can tell that we are gonna be friends




    Won’t you believe it, it’s just my luck

    No recess

    You’re in high school again

    No recess

    After listening to the songs, I shared with the team that I think about these songs and their lyrics frequently, most often during the fall. For me, they represent the dichotomous potential of school: as a place of learning, nostalgia, and coming of age; or a bleak, oppressive, boring institution. I asked the team to consider how our policies and practices may contribute to one or the other, and how our students might look back on their school experience in 20 or 30 years: as places of warmth and unfolding, or places of cold and limits. (It is worth listening to the Nirvana song—the band played it more than any other over the course of their brief career and it was anthemic among fans.)


    As we move further into the school year, I try to keep the above in mind. The over-quantification of students (and staff) via blunt instruments like NJSLA, QSAC, mSGP, SGOs, and other “measures” may distract us from focusing on creating and enhancing conditions for learning, growth, and enjoyment. We want students to want to come to school, and if they want to come to school then we are doing something right.


    I hope that in the midst of ends of marking periods, presentations on standardized tests, college application deadlines, and other markers of an advancing school year, we are all able to work within our communities to ensure that our students view our schools more as destinations than assignments, more as homes than stopovers. This is a time of year to be thankful and double down on what matters most.


    I wish you the best for a happy and meaningful holiday season.




    Mike LaSusa
    2023-2024 NJASA President