President's Corner

Superintendent of the Year Program Observes a Happy 10th

by Donald R. Thompson


"The envelope please …"

Since 1988, the American Association of School Administrators and The ServiceMaster Co. have cosponsored the National Superintendent of the Year recognition program.

During these past 10 years, nearly 500 state and national finalists have appeared on stage at AASA’s National Conference on Education. With thousands of school leaders in the audience, you can hear a pin drop as the envelope is opened and the National Superintendent of the Year steps front-and-center to thunderous applause and worldwide recognition. On behalf of school leaders everywhere, I want to say, "Happy 10th anniversary to the National Superintendent of the Year program."

Each state and American schools overseas select their own superintendent of the year, using national criteria. These "finalists" then become candidates for National Superintendent of the Year. As a result, outstanding superintendents are recognized at both the state and national levels.

The selection criteria include: leadership for learning, communications skills, professionalism, and community involvement. A Blue Ribbon panel of leaders in education, business, and government reviews applications from each state and overseas, and selects four national finalists. Those national finalists come to their nation’s capital for personal interviews, a news conference at the National Press Club, a luncheon with national education leaders, and a major cultural event. Not even the person selected to represent the profession knows he or she has been chosen until the dramatic announcement at the National Conference.

The National Superintendent of the Year program does not attempt to identify the best superintendent in the country. That would be impossible. Instead, it recognizes exemplary leaders who represent the quality that exists in our profession.

Most of us are convinced that effective education-business partnerships are beneficial. I believe that the 10-year partnership between AASA and ServiceMaster is a model. Its strength comes from its intense focus on those it honors, with an understanding that excellence in leadership is a key to excellence in education for students in the classroom. Of course, well-educated people benefit every part of society.

There are so very many who deserve our congratulations and thanks. Among them are the 500 state and national finalists over the past 10 years; AASA and ServiceMaster staff who have made the program a winner; our Executive Committee, which has given its long-term support to this effort; state associations of school administrators, who manage the state selection process; the members of our Blue Ribbon panel, for making hard decisions; and the news media, for giving recognition to these school leaders.

The list of National Superintendents of the Year reads like a who’s who in local school leadership. Each has taken the cause of children and education nationwide, with dignity, enthusiasm, and intellectual integrity. Please join me in a salute to our first 10 National Superintendents of the Year: Gene Carter (1988), James Wilsford (1989), Donald Draayer (1990), Carol G. Peck (1991), Donald Ingwerson (1992), Kenneth Burnley (1993), Kenneth Moffett (1994), Robert Spillane (1995), Janet Barry (1996), and John O’Rourke (1997).

I’m delighted to tell you that the first 10 years are only the beginning!

Donald Thompson is president of AASA.