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President's Corner                                       Page 50

 

Healthy Schools = 

Healthy Students

 

BY AMY F. SICHEL

 Amy Sichel

Student health always has been an important issue to me, so it is more than appropriate, in fact it is ironic, that my first column as president of AASA appears in an issue of our magazine that examines the links between children’s health and learning.

In my work as a school psychologist and later as director of student services, I consistently dealt with issues related to children’s mental and physical health and learning. It’s helpful to know that research points to a strong link between health and learning and achievement.

Educators can have a strong, positive effect on children’s health by teaching about physical well-being and promoting healthy behaviors. If we want children to be successful learners, we, as superintendents and administrators, need to be strong advocates for children’s mental and physical health. We must promote good nutrition, immunizations, vision and hearing screenings, health education and safe, nurturing school environments.

Healthy students and effective learning require healthy schools and school districts. One of my goals as AASA president this year is to encourage schools and districts to be healthy places for our children to learn. We must be able to spread the word that the majority of our public schools are healthy and that their students demonstrate good academic, social and emotional health.

For more than a decade, the Abington, Pa., School District motto has reflected our mission: Excellence Is Our Standard and Achievement Is the Result. As superintendents and administrators, we play a pivotal role in ensuring that America’s students receive a quality education that prepares them for college and career success. We can do that only by guaranteeing that, as a nation, educational excellence is our stand-ard. We need to be united as educational leaders on issues that will continue to influence, in effect, the health of public education and -student achievement in America.

Unfortunately, public education seems to be under attack by some sectors of society. We face such challenges as decreased funding, increased regulations and growing pressures on teachers and administrators to do more with less. Although no vaccines can protect against such attacks, we need to immunize public education to protect its health in the same way that immunizations help protect students from sickness. We can help immunize public education by developing a strong mission, taking concerted actions to support that mission and disseminating important information about the achievements — and the needs — of our schools and school districts through state organizations and AASA.

Superintendents and administrators must promote the fact the majority of school districts successfully foster student achievement. Too often in the past, we have not communicated the successes of public education. But I am pleased that, as individuals and as an organization, we are making strides in communicating the message that most public schools are succeeding.

As AASA members and as educational leaders, we can and must constantly and consistently spread and reinforce the message that excellence in public education is our national standard and that achievement for all students must be the result. A healthy, strong AASA with a committed and expanded membership is crucial to communicating the messages and actions that advance the health of public education.

As president, I will encourage the AASA membership to be effective educators, leaders and outspoken cheerleaders for our schools and to continue to be strong advocates for public education. It is through a strong AASA and its state affiliates that we can advocate for healthy public schools with healthy students that can produce a healthy future for everyone. I pledge to do my part. Can I count on you?

Amy Sichel is AASA president for 2013-14. E-mail: AmySichel@Abington.k12.pa.us

 

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