Leaders Matter By...
The AASA National Superintendents of the Year 2018 Forum in Washington, D.C. in November provided a unique opportunity for leaders in public education to discuss policy, programs and critical issues in schools, as well as sharing successful models of teaching and learning. I was excited to be a part of these meetings, and to hear AASA Executive Director, Dan Domenech. At the Opening Gala, Dr. Domenech noted that superintendents demonstrate, on a daily basis, leadership not just in our school districts, but in our communities and in our states, all on behalf of our students.
In reflecting on this powerful Forum, I recalled a letter I read about Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, and how he inspired his followers. Rumi said, “be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder,” when leading others. After participating in the Superintendents’ Forum, I found both Rumi’s and Dr. Domenech’s messages similar in their advocating for our leading in a transformative manner. We must advocate for public education. Contemplating the Forum, I found the two full days of advocacy, policy and program review, engaging discussions, and establishing friendships can be grouped broadly into three categories.
Leaders Matter by Being a Lamp
David Schuler, Township High School District 214 – The National Superintendent of the Year – has held up a lamp for all of us to see that district’s transformational efforts on student readiness. Dr. Schuler and his team focus on redefining ready. They utilized the lens of “expanded opportunity” to envision the necessary requirements to ensure that their students are college-, career-, and life-ready for today and for tomorrow’s global connection. Dr. Schuler’s presentation cast a light on the various pathways for student engagement in careers, apprenticeships, and preparations for colleges, via the Power of 15 and Career Pathways.
Following Dr. Schuler’s energetic and impressive presentation, were Cheryl Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce; Governor Asa Hutchinson (Arkansas), the 2018-2019 Chair of the Education and Workforce Committee, National Governors Association; and, Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Commissioner of Education. In all of their own way, each of these leaders noted that as Superintendents, we have powerful voices and platforms that enable us to influence state and federal legislators. We learned that in advocating for a particular position or issue, it is important to offer as many real-life examples as possible to emphasize our point. To learn more about acting as an advocate for your district, and public education, the AASA Policy and Advocacy Team of Noelle Ng, firstname.lastname@example.org, Sasha Pudelski, email@example.com, or Leslie Finnan, firstname.lastname@example.org is an effective resource. Please also contact Melanie Schultz, email@example.com or Judy Rattner, firstname.lastname@example.org at NJASA for advocacy support and information in New Jersey.
Two of the Superintendents of the Year Finalists, Dr. Wendy Robinson, Superintendent from Fort Wayne Community Schools, Indiana, and Dr. Mary Sieu, Superintendent from the ABC Unified School District, California spotlighted their work in ensuring equity in their districts. They offered examples of these equity efforts in resources, curriculum and program access, school culture, and valuing individuals. Interesting to note is the work that Dr. Sieu and her district are doing with the Rutgers University on the Labor-Management Collaborative and the positive outcomes that collaborative has had in her district.
Dr. Robinson has implemented a Community Resource Team comprising a social worker, academic counselor, therapeutic counselor, and an intervention specialist to support individual students and their needs. Another unique feature of this district is Study Connection, which focuses on academic success and provides 500 students with a community mentor to ensure a positive adult role model in the child’s life.
Additionally, Schuler, Robinson, and Sieu all focused on the importance of our students being career-ready, and how engaging in a youth apprenticeship can be a pathway to career success for our students. See Noel Ginsburg’s blog in an Education Policy Blog post for more information on youth apprenticeship: Industry-Driven, Student-Focused: Delivering Career-Oriented Youth Apprenticeship
Leaders Matter by Being a Lifeboat
The shrinking of state and federal funding for education has districts looking for “lifeboats” of funding sources, according to Dr. Stan Collender, from McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, who spoke to the Superintendents about the federal budget. Dr. Collender torpedoed that anticipated lifeboat by saying, “we are doomed!” That statement got everyone’s attention. The national deficit is so massive that Dr. Collender doesn’t see it being balanced for another 10 years, and that is only if certain expectations are met. From his current perspective, Dr. Collender doesn’t see Congress making any procedural changes to address the deficit. He said the anticipation is that it eventually will have an impact on education funding.
But then Dr. Collender did send us a lifeboat. The good news is that there will be a slight increase in Title I and Title IV funding, and Title II funding will remain the same (see Education Week’s article about federal entitlement grants). According to Dr. Collender, Congress is looking to support mental health bills and provide more funding for school safety. Dr. Collender said it is important to be forceful advocates for educational funding. We also must look at funding and our school districts in “different” ways. As Superintendents, we can be a lifeboat by looking at how our districts can generate revenue. As the “budget guy” wisely shared, we have cut our expenditures down to the bone, therefore, we must give attention to bringing in new revenue. If you are interested in learning more about the federal budget and its impact on education and school districts, please visit Dr. Collender’s blog at @thebudgetguy.
Another financial change impacting our districts came on July 31, 2018, with the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act). President Trump signed into law H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which is the reauthorization of the Perkins Act, to better meet the demands of the 21st century economy. This reauthorized Act gives states the authority to use up to 10% of their Perkins V funds to support state leadership activities, which include partnership among school districts, institutions of higher education, and employers, to create and expand opportunities for high school students to earn a recognized postsecondary credit or credential, and to integrate work-based learning into CTE programs and programs of study. For more information on Career Pathways, please go to Advance CTE or ACTE Online.
Leaders Matter by Being a Ladder
In raising teachers’ expertise and looking for effective systems that promote, ensure, and sustain teacher effectiveness, Melissa Tooley, Director of Educator Quality, Education Policy Program for the New America organization, and her team researched state documents pertaining to current teacher certification and recertification policies. The five-part recommendation can be found in this here. Through the results of this study, Superintendents can help teachers move up a professional development ladder by supporting state departments of education efforts to link the renewal of licenses to professional learning and growth, rather than a time-oriented standard.
On a separate matter, Congress is climbing its own ladder of modernization by updating FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) to better protect student privacy in light of rapidly developing educational technology. Stay tuned!
This PowerPoint presentation provides some tips for Superintendents in scaling their own personal career ladders, including the best ways to negotiate or renegotiate your contract, who should negotiate your contract, and ensuring that we understand this is not a job that enables you do drive a BMW.
The AASA National Superintendents of the Year 2018 Forum was a motivating experience. It provided a certain reassurance that we face many similarities, and gave us the opportunity to discuss our differences (weather and district size being two of those) with colleagues, as we all had the chance to get to know each other. In speaking with the Washington Superintendent of the Year, Frank Hewins, I learned that he originally is from New Jersey. How about that? Our similarities and ability to network drives home the salient point of our work and confirmation that by being a lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder and a leader, we Superintendents, shape students’ education and opportunities, dreams, and experiences – we matter!