President’s Corner

Acting Resolutely on Our Self-Perceptions

by John R. Lawrence


In a previous President’s Corner, I shared my long-standing passion for the Andy Griffith show. I still watch the reruns whenever I can. Like many viewers, my favorite character is Barney Fife, who was played so well by Don Knotts. Deputy Fife was impulsive, narrow-minded and bungling. Yet at the same time he was loving, gentle and ultimately harmless. If Mayberry, N.C., and the town’s No. 2 lawman really existed, I think Barney and I would be friends. We both have strengths and weaknesses. Barney’s are just more transparent. Perhaps the most observable character flaw Andy’s deputy demonstrated was his inability to differentiate between the realities of his life and his self-perceptions of it. Although countless people ranging in age from Aunt Bee to Opie tried to convince Barney he couldn’t sing, he maintained the unyielding self-image of a tenor extraordinaire. And while he carried but a single bullet for his firearm, and that one in his pocket, Barney regarded himself as a “fierce force” in matters of munitions. Fortunately for the hardened criminals passing through Mayberry, weapons never were needed, given Barney’s expertise in karate. Today, in the landscape of our nation’s troubled economy, our self-perceptions of business operations must be far more accurate. We live in an economic climate that truly is a survival-of-the-fittest environment where only the strong survive and still fewer prosper. Accordingly, although AASA is widely recognized as the industry’s pre-eminent advocate for public school leaders and the children they serve, make no mistake about it, AASA is also a business and must make effective operational decisions to ensure its future. Recently, our association has strengthened its traditional foundation. I want to describe three of the new bricks. The most significant refinement of the association’s business practices is AASA’s adoption of our Stand Up for Public Education initiative. The beauty of the new focus, which in its simplest form means just what the words say, is that telling the positive stories about public schools in America will have a positive impact financially on our association and our profession. This is so in three ways. First, Stand Up for Public Education, in alignment with classic “less is more” thinking, has enabled AASA to streamline its scope of programs. If an AASA program contributes to the mission of standing up for public education it is maintained. The converse is also true. Secondly, many in corporate America seem to be embracing the idea that someone finally is standing up for democracy’s greatest institution. AASA is creating new alliances with both traditional and nontraditional partners in pursuit of our common goal. Third, we are providing our most important base—you, our membership—the tools and resources you need to succeed in these demanding times. We need each of you as an active member of your national association. Our association’s budget challenges, like your own, still exist. However, the triple effect of our Stand Up ideology is a strengthened voice on matters of federal policy, lower operational costs and a growing membership. AASA will prosper in the new economy. We’ll do that through our continued business evolution. Fortunately, we’re not like Deputy Fife and our self-perceptions are accurate. We really can sing and we have a lot to sing about. John Lawrence is president of AASA.