President's Corner

Finishing Up or Just Beginning?

by EDGAR B. HATRICK

As I end my year as your president, I return to my full-time responsibilities as superintendent of Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools with new perspectives and new knowledge, invigorated by what I have learned during the past year.

As education leaders, we all know the benefits of learning from others. Multiply what you know by at least 100 and you get a sense of the opportunities for learning that leadership in AASA provides.

Edgar HatrickEdgar B. Hatrick


One thing I already knew, but that was reinforced this year, is that AASA really is the national voice for public education in America. Although we all work at the local level to ensure student access to excellent schools, we must have a strong collective voice to advocate for those same children at the state and national levels. AASA is the organization, along with its state affiliates, that gives us that voice.

Critics from all reaches of government and society tell us what we need to do to improve American education. Gerald Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says, “Somehow we have allowed the direction of American public education to be taken from the hands of principals and superintendents, and we must take it back.”

As school leaders, we are the ones who should be directing reform, not foundations, corporate boards or the mass media. Because it’s our responsibility to ensure every child in the nation has a high-quality education, we should be working more closely with school boards, principals, teachers, parents, students and each other to set the course for American public education.

For more than 10 years we have allowed the federal government to assume far too great a role in local school matters. Today, leaders at the federal level are beginning to realize how inappropriate this situation is with regard to the well-being of our nation’s youth. They finally understand that for America’s students to receive a true world-class education, all available resources must be brought together at the local level.

They also have realized that poverty continues to be the No. 1 enemy of our young people, in their school lives, in their home lives and in their communities. Until we cure the evil effects of poverty in all of those settings, we will continue to lose children.

As I hand over the reins to our new president, Pat Neudecker, I return to my district filled with great memories, inspiring stories from around the country and a deep respect for the work members are doing in rural, suburban and urban settings. I am convinced anew of the power of putting children first as the only real measure of successful change. I came into this position already believing in the power of superintendents and other system leaders to make a real difference for children. That belief has strengthened during the past 12 months.

I begin my 46th year as a public school educator proud of our children, proud of American public schools and filled with a sense of hope for the future. In the end, the only measure of our success is found in our students. It was true in 1865 when AASA was founded, it is true today, and it will be true in the future.

I hope you have a summer of rest and renewal in preparation for the exciting school year ahead. Godspeed to each of you.

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