President's Corner

At the Heart of AASA

by Sarah D. Jerome

In 1859, my great grandfather, the first superintendent in Onslow County, N.C., said, “Were I asked to declare the preserving charm of our beloved nation, I would lead the inquirer to the Common Schools. There, the minds that rule the land are fashioned.” Some 150 years later these words remain applicable and deeply meaningful.

My mission as AASA president is to champion public education and the children we serve through public education. My commitment is to listen to and serve AASA members, to reach out to non-members and national decision makers and to be your steward for service.

At the heart of AASA’s mantra, Stand Up for Public Education, is democracy. According to Benjamin Barber, political theorist and professor at the University of Maryland, “Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public but because they establish us as a public.”

AASA’s work is all about nurturing the democratic ideals of our nation and creating an enlightened citizenry.
A bit of symbolic imagery with the word democracy may add dimension to our purpose as a national organization dedicated to helping shape the future of America through our commitment to democracy.

• Dynamic leadership will help prepare children for school, schools for children and children for democracy.
• Exceptional, ethical educators will restore America’s faith in public education.
• Members will provide a united voice in supporting and promoting AASA’s vision.
• Opportunities to speak with force and clarity that are ours as the leaders of the nation’s schools will help us stand up for our nation’s youth.
• Challenges will increase our commitment and capacity to work together toward common goals.
• Renaissance, rejuvenation and restoration of our nation through public education will advance our mission and guide our activities.
• Advocacy will be artful, articulate and assertive.
• Communication will spread our message and solidify partnerships with other advocates of public education.
• Youth will find their own wisdom and transform their lives through our support.

I look forward to leading our association as we stand up for public education and for the democratic ideals upon which our great nation was founded. But I recognize that it does indeed take a village to educate our children. Therefore, I hope to use this opportunity to recognize unsung heroes who are making tremendous contributions to education around the world.

Each month, I will share a snapshot of one of my heroes. I hope you, too, will be inspired by their dedication to the well-being of our youth.

Hero Profile: Graham B. Spanier
Spanier is president of Pennsylvania State University and chair of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. His scholarly career has focused on marriage and family relationships. His administrative leadership has focused on humanizing higher education and improving society through the work of the university.

Spanier emphasizes the integration of teaching, research and service to better address important societal issues. He believes “a critical part of our educational mission is developing character, conscience, civility, citizenship and social responsibility in our students” and sees alcohol abuse by students as one of the most serious challenges facing American education today. Spanier pursues his commitment to humanize the educational setting and help students become responsible citizens.

Sarah Jerome is AASA president in 2007-08. E-mail: