President's Corner

We Are Here! We Are Here!

by Randall H. Collins

In Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, the people of Whoville save themselves from annihilation by yelling “We are here, we are here.” And they are heard — and saved — because they speak with one strong voice.

While AASA is not facing such disastrous consequences as annihilation, many superintendents who are female, minority or young do not yet see themselves as represented by AASA. To some, we are an Old Boys Network. That must change.

For the past 14 years we have been ably led by Paul Houston, a strong voice for AASA, a persistent advocate for children, a gifted writer. Paul has influenced many superintendents’ careers, including my own. However, he would be the first to acknowledge that this is the time for all superintendents to step forward and in one voice shout “We are here” if we are to remain effective advocates of public schoolchildren and their leaders.

Under the presidential leadership of Sarah Jerome this past year, AASA made great strides in recognizing our association’s situation and began crafting solutions to our challenges, such as the forward-thinking legislative agenda All Children Will Learn.

To become the AASA of tomorrow we must ensure our governing board is inclusive and rich with the diversity of our membership. When all of our leaders are represented, we will have become an influential association speaking with one voice and pursuing one vision. We must become the pulpit from which every superintendent can speak and be heard.

We are in the midst of what one might call the renaissance of AASA. Like the people of Whoville, we are yelling, “We are here.”
We are here to serve you, the leaders of our public schools. We are here to represent the interests of the many children who attend our schools. We are here to return to the very reason for our existence — to ensure our republic is strong and our children mature into principled, productive citizens.

We are here to lead our communities in educating the whole child rather than using tests as a way to segregate those who will succeed from those who, without extra support, will not. We are here to return to the teachers of this country the idealism with which they entered this profession. We are here because there is no one else in this unique position with the skills necessary to say “enough.” If not now, when? If not us, who?

Now is the time for superintendents to take notice, become involved and be heard. We have a sacred duty to serve the youngsters under our care. To do so effectively, we must be united, informed and supported by one organization. We must establish our organization as the hub, the lightning rod and the oracle for public education.

The face of the world in which we live, the children we serve and the profession we love have all changed. The challenges facing American public education are greater than ever before. AASA must maintain the financial resources, develop a national presence and enhance our political ability. This will enable us to respond to legislative initiatives, provide resources to superintendents on a local level and ensure, in fact, no child is left behind.

The challenge is formidable; the stakes are high.

As your president, I will confront these challenges by seeking inclusion, accountability and relevance. Together, we have a job to do. I will enlist you to join me in shouting, “We are here!”

Randall Collins is AASA president in 2008-09. E-mail: RCollins@waterfordschools.org