President's Corner

Networking in the New World

by EDGAR B. HATRICK

Gone are the days of students sitting quietly in rows, listening to their teachers lecture in front of a blackboard. No longer do classes of learners, children or adults, need to gather in a single physical space at a specific time to participate in the learning process.

Today, at all levels of education, teachers are using online learning to reach more students more often.

Edgar HatrickEdgar B. Hatrick



I don’t have any personal experience with online courses, but my daughter is completing a master’s degree in administration at the University of New Mexico. Although she lives near the main campus in Albuquerque, she has been able to accelerate her degree completion by combining online and on-campus learning. All in all, she has benefited from being able to complete some courses online, but she also enjoys being with her peers in a more traditional classroom setting.

The ability to interact and network with fellow learners is an important element of the traditional education model. Through that face-to-face interaction we learn to collaborate, to solve problems as a group and to respect others’ strengths and differences. If we are lucky, we forge friendships that continue throughout our lives, personally and professionally.

The ability to network with our colleagues around the country certainly is one of the benefits we all enjoy from our membership in AASA. Not only do we connect face to face at conferences and meetings, we have an opportunity to connect electronically and through AASA publications. We benefit from the experiences and perspectives of superintendents and school system leaders the world over.

If you subscribe to the belief that most challenges we face on an almost-daily basis are the same challenges our colleagues have faced and often overcome, then you know that the benefits of networking are immeasurable.

I have been part of my school system for 44 years and work with a gifted senior staff, but there are times when I just need to talk to another superintendent. That person may be a state executive director (usually a former superintendent), but it also may be a colleague whom I got to know in graduate school, at an AASA event or even online through a listserve. When we need leadership resources, any and all of these avenues can connect us with people from whom we can learn.

As seasoned leaders in education, we have a responsibility to provide younger leaders who are just entering the superintendency or other educational leadership positions with opportunities to network with colleagues. We must establish ways for leaders young and old to connect quickly with their peers and enjoy the benefits of networking.

We know for certain that superintendents cannot lead their districts effectively without help. Our participation in our state associations and in AASA assures us a wealth of experience upon which to draw. That is why at the National Conference on Education in February I urged everyone to bring three new members into AASA in the coming year. Many young superintendents across America are pursuing their leadership course on their own, unaware of the wealth of experience available to them through networking in AASA.

Whether you network electronically or in the more traditional face-to-face ways, you know the value of interacting with your peers should never be underestimated. I have another licensure renewal coming up soon — perhaps I’ll enroll in an online course and try my hand at some virtual networking.

Edgar Hatrick is AASA president for 2010-11. E-mail: ehatrick@aol.com