NSBA, AASA Leaders Pledge Close Relations

 NSBA's Thomas Gentzel, left, and AASA's Dan Domenech
  led a Thought Leader session at the National Conference
  on Education.
by Lilac Peterson

Sometimes it’s best to forgive and forget.

That’s what Dan Domenech, AASA’s executive director, and Thomas Gentzel, the executive director of the National School Boards Association, demonstrated Saturday at an AASA Thought Leader session where the two discussed a cohesive approach to crusading for public education.

Both Domenech and Gentzel were eager for AASA and NSBA to present a united front.

The two leaders acknowledge that critics will have abundant reason to lambast AASA and NSBA when the Common Core standards will be tested for the first time nationwide. The challenge of resisting what will be a subsequent push to convert traditional public schools into charter schools is one thing both are ready to take on.

“There will be a spectacular failure rate” under the Common Core, Domenech said. “But we must defend ourselves from those who will take advantage of the lackluster test results to push the charter school system onto America’s public schools.”

Gentzel, who assumed his role in December after leading the NSBA’s state affiliate in Pennsylvania, said there is virtually no evidence charter schools are beneficial. In fact, the situation often is reversed as charter schools dredge up numerous financial challenges and re-segregate schools.

To better face these challenges, Gentzel suggests beginning by doing away with ambiguous public statements.

“I don’t want to make this sound more basic than it is, but it is crucial that we eliminate statements that the public may interpret differently,” he said. “We need to be clear and consistent with our messaging.”

He also said it was necessary for school board members to develop formal training regarding collaboration with superintendents.

“School board members are on the same team as the superintendents,” Gentzel said. “We should be kept in the loop about issues so we can short-circuit problems when they do arise.”

Domenech was all for teamwork with NSBA, whose headquarters office is located across the street from AASA in Alexandria, Va.

“I really look forward to working with you and NSBA,” he said. “We are the Dream Team. From my perspective, I work for the school board, so it’s critical that superintendents develop a friendly relationship with the school board.”

“The last thing we are going to do is cede the stage to other groups. Our opportunity is here and we need to go for it,” Domenech said.

(Lilac Peterson, a junior at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, is an intern with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)