President's Corner

Show Up, Step Up

by Eugene G. White

This is my first column as president of AASA, and it is an awesome opportunity to communicate directly to the members on a regular basis. It is also challenging because I have so much to share, and prioritizing it all is proving to be more difficult than I anticipated. So I will follow Stephen Covey's advice to "start with the end in mind." This year's theme and my request of educational leaders is to Show Up, Stand Up, Step Up and Speak Up.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast of our country very hard. Lives were lost. Homes, businesses and properties were destroyed. Dreams and prosperity disappeared. As we watched the television pictures in shock, disbelief and frustration, it was almost impossible to believe this was happening in our country.

The poor response strategies, delayed federal intervention, misconceptions and smoke screens made the whole situation a horror show. We were left wondering what, if anything, we could do to help.

The aftermath of the storms has given rise to wild speculations. The water in New Orleans is unsafe to drink. The air is unsafe to breathe. Crime is rampant. Reality tells a different story; the health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control have given New Orleans a clean bill of health. The water is safe to drink, the air is safe to breathe, crime is as low as it has been in years and the hotels, Bourbon Street establishments and the convention center are bustling with activity. New Orleans is back in business.

Now is the time to make plans to join us in New Orleans at the AASA National Conference on Education, March 1-4, 2007. The national conference is our chance to make a positive contribution to the rebirth of a great city and to support the recovery of its schools. If you want to do a little more, join us on Monday, Feb. 26, and Tuesday, Feb. 27, as we activate the AASA Work Crew to help local school and community officials repair buildings and clean up communities.

If manual labor isn't your forte, join the AASA Care Crew and visit elementary schools to read with students and meet faculty and staff members. Let's show our support.

The Work Crew and Care Crew will work on Monday and Tuesday to kick off AASA's contributions to New Orleans. On Wednesday evening we will recognize school officials and community members who have gone beyond the call of duty to rebuild the city and the schools.

AASA is offering you a win-win situation. Not only can you attend a great conference with a unique opening night celebration, great speakers, music and fun, but you have an opportunity to help restore a grand city with a great culture and remarkable people. You win, AASA wins and New Orleans wins. I truly believe the city has earned some victories.

Yes, the hardest hit areas of the city continue to face challenges to rebuild, as do all the citizens of New Orleans who are recovering from the mental, emotional and financial toll of the disaster. But the bottom line is this: Our members who attend the National Conference on Education in March will not face any health risk or personal danger. Rather, you will have an opportunity to do something to help.

Show Up! We could have moved the conference to another city, but leaders don't take the easy way out. Show Up! We could go to town for three or four days and keep to ourselves, but as educators we know what happens when people are uninvolved or indifferent. Show Up! That is what leaders do. As the saying goes, "You have to be in it to win it." Show Up!