Intern View: Legislative Advocacy Conference

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Intern View: Legislative Advocacy Conference

capitolThis past week I had the opportunity to join AASA in person for its Legislative Advocacy conference. I’ve come to understand that the superintendency can be a solitary position. Conferences are a great opportunity to gather around a community that's driven toward the same goal, sharing the challenges of districts and learning from the successes of others.     

The content of the sessions at the conference itself were specific and intentional, as opposed to general statements and a pat on the back. The sessions, specifically the update from AASA’s advocacy team, dove into the nitty gritty of what superintendents need to know when they face Capitol Hill. The new advocacy app, which debuted at the conference, is sure to be a great resource to continue work on AASA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda.

It was also great to hear from the deputy secretary of education. In the past year, the politicization of education has increased even more. It was reassuring to hear that Cindy Marten is focused on the student. As a former teacher, she is determined to keep these things in sight.

  Adv ConfOn Tuesday, I was able to speak with president-elect Shari Camhi, superintendent in Baldwin, N.Y. She was passionate about the need to reinvent education. She emphasized that education has to be built around the students, not the adults. She also commented on the necessity to move the idea of what lessons we’ve learned from COVID (what to keep, what to lose) past simple rhetoric and into actions. PBS did a special on her district and we discussed her district's robust website. It seems AASA’s future is in good hands. 

I used to be interested in advocacy, social justice and public education. I believe public education is the key to success. It's a way out of poverty, it was my parents’ key to class mobility and it is vital to our democracy. Everyone has a part they can play in pushing schools forward, not just educators. From this conference, I've learned that I can take the skills I have in digital media and communications and apply them to worthy causes. Every organization needs a variety of parts and skillsets to work as one body moving forward. In my last blog post I noted how everyone works together, taking on various roles, because they believe in the work. Throughout the Legislative Advocacy Conference, I saw that attitude growing within me as well.  

When I speak to people about working in education, they immediately jump to conclusions about classrooms being too political, about the pawn education has become in political games and a weapon of whatever rhetoric they feel most threatened by. This is not what I saw. These sessions revolved around crumbling school buildings, child nutrition, safe and speedy returns from COVID, plans for natural disasters, equitable internet access for students, etc. These are not dubious figures scheming on the best way to indoctrinate children. They are vulnerable servants with hearts that are burdened with care for the wellbeing and success of America's children.  

PaulIn his installation Paul Imhoff, superintendent of Upper Arlington (Ohio) School District, spoke on the importance of love. I saw that love across the conference. Love for each other, as members caught up on their families and hugged one another. Love for their districts as they compared and contrasted what works for what district and grilled panelists on behalf of their students. Above all, there was love for students and public education. 

Watch the videos here:

 2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference - Kristi Wilson

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference - AASA President Paul Imhoff

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference - AASA President-elect Shari Camhi

2021 Legislative Advocacy Conference - Shane Hotchkiss

Intern View: AASA's Advocacy Mindset

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Intern View: AASA's Advocacy Mindset

Intern View: AASA's Advocacy Mindset

Over the course of my internship, I have alternated between working exclusively with School Administrator and digital content. Recently I had the opportunity to become more acquainted with the bigger picture of AASA, as I was able to have one-on-one conversations with several AASA staff members and attend a full staff meeting. 

There were a few traits that stuck out in all of those conversations. First off, in describing their work, it became apparent that each individual was not only capable but willing to fulfill a variety of different roles, like James Minichello, whose duties include responsibilities like writing press releases, but also took it upon himself to sharpen his photography skills in order to increase coverage. 

Secondly, many members of the staff do not have a background in education. This came as a shock to me. Not only did it subvert my expectation, but with the wealth of knowledge everyone exhibits it’s hard to believe.

 Third, advocacy is the blood that pumps through every action. It’s one thing to witness the focus on advocacy when writing social media posts, editing the website, or evaluating manuscripts for School Administrator. Those things are the face we show others. It’s the appearance we choose to present. 

It’s another thing to see that mindset driving the conversation in staff meetings or even the day-to-day duties of each individual. This intentionality is not just the appearance of AASA but it is clearly the substance as well.

In the past weeks I was also given the task to look through archived School Administrator articles to add to the publications portion of our equity resources. This task once again showed me the depth of AASA’s commitment. While the past year has forced many organizations to participate in difficult conversations on equity for the first time, it is clear that AASA has been engaged in searching for equitable solutions and gameplans for years, and they are only continuing to move forward.

These experiences have made me consider my future in a different light. From a distance the harmony of this team is obvious, but at a closer look the muscle holding this organism together is a genuine care for the members of AASA and a hope for the future of public education. In my future career I hope to be a part of an organization I truly believe in. Knowing what the job counts for makes the work even more worthwhile and the direction of every task crystal clear.