President's Corner

Reflections on the Year

by David E. Gee

It hardly seems possible my term as president of AASA is ending so soon. Wasn’t it only yesterday that I was being installed?

Most of my thoughts that day were focused on the honor you had bestowed on me. The idea that I would be representing thousands of school leaders from across the United States, Canada and overseas was both overwhelming and gratifying. I vowed to not only help carry our association forward but upward as well.

However, like a true superintendent of schools, I had little time to savor and reflect on the honor. I immediately turned my attention to addressing all the pressures and reforms that have taken up so much of our time as education leaders. Think about it: In just a few short years, we’ve been asked to:

 

  • Make the shift from providing students with universal access and equity to ensuring universal proficiency;

     

     

  • Grasp the concept of intelligent design or, as some of my colleagues refer to it “The Scopes Trial Revisited;” and

     

     

  • Listen to many of our elected officials proclaim the 65 percent solution as the magic bullet of education reform — often in the hopes of directing the public’s attention away from the fact they have not provided adequate school funding to begin with.

     

    Amid those challenges, we witnessed the tragedy in the Gulf States, where more than 500 school buildings were damaged or destroyed and more than 370,000 children and their families were displaced. I am so proud of the way educators across the nation stepped up to welcome these students and their families into their communities, to provide learning resources in the face of dwindling education budgets and to give these young people a home school — for however long they needed it.

    And through it all, despite all our heroic efforts, I was saddened to see our elected officials and the media point their fingers at us, at you and me, proclaiming we were part of the problem and not part of any solution. Rarely were superintendents recognized, never mind heralded, for their dedication and commitment to the welfare of all of our nation’s youth.

    Yes, we’ve faced and continue to face some tough roads, and I applaud all of you for rising to the occasion and defending our nation’s public school system. I am afraid in today’s climate, if we don’t extol the strength and value of our public schools, few others will.

    But rather than dwelling solely on the challenges, let’s focus on our commitment to the nation’s most precious resource — our children, all of our children — and rekindle the passion that made all of us choose this profession in the first place. Yes, it is sometimes difficult to remember why we traveled down this particular leadership path, but whatever the reasons were, we are where we are today. The key is to realize how important it is to be the positive force in your school system. If not you, then who?

    Yes, it was a year full of challenges, triumphs, learning and sharing, and I leave this office with a great degree of hope for your next president, Eugene White of Indianapolis. He is a remarkable leader and educator, and I hand over the gavel secure in the knowledge he has the ability and the unwavering commitment to “Stand Up For Public Education” and to defend its leaders.

    Please welcome Gene in the same spirit, cooperation and friendship that you greeted me a year ago. Gene, all the best, as you take our national organization to even higher levels.