President’s Corner

Leadership’s Time Is Now

by David E. Gee

Education leaders are under attack. It is we who are held accountable when students fall short of meeting state standards on high-stakes tests. We are the targets when a school doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress. We are the marks when society has failed our young people and the news media needs someone to target to undo the damage that has been done.

We are easy scapegoats because the public school system is not a corporate body that can simply drop an unprofitable product line. We don’t pick and choose our inputs so we can ensure a marketable output. We accept all students unconditionally and attempt to shape them into productive citizens despite a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences.


When our efforts don’t produce instant results or when some of our students go astray, we become the target of criticism. We didn’t do enough. We didn’t get it right. We did too much. Given the storms we weather every day, it is easy for us to weary of charges that we are not pushing children hard enough or that we are not focused on the bottom line.


Despite these challenges, I still believe today is the most exciting time to be a public school leader. Never before has education been so far out in front on the local, state and national political agendas. Never before have we seen such sweeping political reform targeted at our public schools. Never before have we known so much about how the brain learns and how to reach each and every student. And never before have we seen technology literally transform learning methodologies, experiences and opportunities.


Now is not the time to run away from the job; it is the time to embrace it. We have an opportunity to be the focal point in our communities--to be the voice that stands up for public education, for rational change, for careful evaluation and for consistent leadership. Our voice--the voice of experience--can acknowledge or dispute the need for change, ensure change brings about continuous improvement rather than quick fixes and dash ill-conceived ideas that do no more than fulfill personal agendas without bettering the lives of our children and securing the future of our democracy.


Public education is under tremendous pressure to provide better results. Unfortunately, our education leaders are more identified with the problem than the solution. AASA must be the leading organization that promotes and supports the vital role education leaders play in our nation’s public schools. We must be the voice of reason, of reality and of hope for the future. To shape the public’s mindset about the quality of public education, our collective voices must be heard. Our parents, our communities, our legislators and the media need to see our enthusiasm for the job, our hopefulness for the fruits of our labor and the worthiness of our experiences.


Yes, while it may seem like the worst of times for education leaders, I believe it is the best of times for those of us who work in a profession in which we see, each and every day, how our efforts contribute to the overall well-being of not only our young people but our society and even our world. We are the leaders of the noblest profession and, despite public scrutiny and criticism, at the end of the day each of us can honestly say we made a difference in the lives of a child.


I urge you to continue to Stand Up for Public Education, to be a vocal advocate of our nation’s education system. With our steadfast leadership and our collective voices, we will ensure our school children will develop into young adults who are prepared to play a productive role in society.