President's Corner

A Year of Engagement For Parents and Communities

by Donald R. Thompson


More than a year ago, I announced that I had selected the theme, "Engaging Parents in Educating," for my year as president of the American Association of School Administrators. As leaders, we know that enthusiastic and involved parents are among the most powerful resources we have in educating students.

During the past year, I have taken that message far and wide and have found both resounding support and a cry for help. Teachers and administrators know that the support and encouragement of parents can have a profound effect on the achievement and overall well-being of students. At the same time, these people on the front lines of education are faced with growing numbers of single-parent homes and homes where both parents are working, sometimes holding several jobs to make ends meet. Engaging parents has never been more challenging nor has it ever been more important.

As the 1996-97 school year began, I was asked to serve on a steering committee for a campaign launched by the U.S. Department of Education titled, "America Goes Back to School … Get Involved." The committee was co-chaired by Secretary of Education Richard Riley; Tipper Gore, wife of the vice president and a longtime child advocate; star athlete, business person, and actor Bo Jackson; National PTA President Joan Dykstra; and former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Sanders, president of Southern Illinois University. Through this effort, thousands of parents and others in communities across the nation not only learned how schools are reaching for excellence, but were able to help out.

Now, AASA has been asked to be a primary leadership organization in providing follow-up for the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, led by President Bill Clinton, former-President George Bush, other former-Presidents, and retired General Colin Powell. Through this nationwide effort, we hope to rally more than a million people to contribute as volunteers to their schools and communities.

I am exhilarated to know that America’s spirit of engagement is on a roll. I am confident that, because of it, we will become an even more civil society.

Of course, as a leadership organization, we need to be sure our members and future members are prepared for the monumental opportunity to connect schools and the communities they serve. That is one important reason why we are launching a Leadership Institute for School Administrators and why we are strengthening AASA’s relationships with professors who prepare today’s and tomorrow’s school leaders.

During this past year, I have traveled from coast to coast offering encouragement to those who serve our nation’s children. In turn, I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen—dedicated administrators and teachers devoting their energies to improving the lives of others through education.

My thanks to the members of AASA who have made this magnificent experience of serving as your president possible. I am especially grateful to Homer Kearns and other presidents of AASA whose leadership stretches back to 1865. Now, please join me in welcoming and offering our very best wishes for a successful year to our new AASA President Karl Hertz.