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Executive Perspective                                     Page 47

 

Attending to the Full Needs

of Children 

 

BY DANIEL A. DOMENECH

 Daniel Domenech

The need to educate the total child is a belief that AASA not only preaches but practices. Jamie Volmer, a general session speaker at this month’s National Conference on Education in Houston and author of Schools Cannot Do It Alone, argues that the education of the total child requires the coordinated efforts of all agencies and individuals interested in the well-being of children for our schools to succeed.

New York University professor Pedro Noguera, who will speak at the conference’s Dr. Effie Jones Memorial Luncheon, is an authority on the research behind the positive effects of educating the total child.

AASA members can be proud that your association actively addresses the full range of children’s needs in school systems throughout America.

No child learns well on an empty stomach or while struggling with chronic illness or studying in an unhealthy building. That is why AASA provides technical assistance, mini-grants and other support to superintendents and their teams that can improve the education, health and life trajectories of their students … and has been doing so for more than 40 years.

AASA assists districts facing environmental issues in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, using a holistic approach that addresses health and student achievement. Special emphasis is placed on urban and rural school districts where the buildings are old, the dollars are few and the issues border on social justice.

Health Conditions
Across the country, the number of children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch is escalating sharply, but fewer than half eat breakfast at school, even though programs exist to feed them. Through a grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation, AASA is partnering with Brentwood and Syracuse school districts in New York, the Cincinnati Public Schools and the Riverside schools in California on creative breakfast models. Elementary students have breakfast in the classroom. Secondary students eat a “grab and go” meal. These districts model making healthy breakfasts available for all.

In this great country, eight million children lack health insurance. Many are eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs, often referred to as CHIP, but remain unenrolled. Untreated health conditions cause uninsured and underinsured children to miss an estimated 25 percent more days of school than their insured peers.

The world-renowned advocacy group, the Children’s Defense Fund, has joined AASA to work with 10 school districts in California, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi to identify eligible children ─ by adding an insurance question to school enrollment forms and providing assistance to enroll students. A report on promising approaches that can be replicated by any school district in the nation will be published.

AASA, a national partner in Ready by 21, helps state and local education leaders improve the school, family, community and business supports available to young people to ensure they are ready for college work and life. The national conference will debut a creative short film on how you can become involved in Ready by 21 in your community.

AASA’s College-Going Data to Drive School Improvement, supported by the Gates Foundation, puts postsecondary data in the hands of superintendents. We realized data alone is not enough and are partnering with College Summit to broaden the conversation, translate data into information and put into school leaders’ hands tools and resources to make the data actionable.

AASA has a new cooperative agreement on coordinated school health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to train a cadre of superintendents on coordinated school health. This agreement will touch superintendents and university professors across 50 states in terms of school health policies, councils and education administration programs.

Supportive History
AASA has collaborated with the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and the National Alliance of Black School Educators to address childhood obesity in vulnerable communities. Last year we partnered with the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation to sponsor the Let’s Move! Flash Workout. Students performed a choreographed dance/exercise routine to Beyoncé’s song “Move Your Body.” More than 1,000 middle schools nationwide participated in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

This is just a sampling of the work that AASA does to foster the education of the total child. Sharon Adams-Taylor and the rest of the Children’s Program staff are available to help our members who want to pursue any of these initiatives in their school district. It’s a benefit of AASA membership.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail: ddomenech@aasa.org

 

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