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Q&A:


AASA’s Oldest Living President, Norman Hall

Norman R. Hall, 92, of McQueeney, Texas, holds the distinction of being the oldest living AASA president.

Hall was elected to the association’s presidency in 1978 when he was working as superintendent in Andrews, Texas. At the time, AASA was negotiating the purchase of a new office building in Arlington, Va., starting a summer conference and growing its membership.

Norm Hall
Norman Hall (center) with wife Billye and the governor of Texas at AASA's first summer convention in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1978 when Hall served as AASA president.

Norman R. Hall, 92, of McQueeney, Texas, holds the distinction of being the oldest living AASA president.Hall was elected to the association’s presidency in 1978 when he was working as superintendent in Andrews, Texas. At the time, AASA was negotiating the purchase of a new office building in Arlington, Va., starting a summer conference and growing its membership.

In a telephone interview in mid-July 2014 with Liz Griffin, managing editor of School Administrator magazine, Hall shared his views of AASA from the vantage point of a 50-year member whose loyalty to the association is shared by his wife, Billye, who was an active part of planning the Partners Program, a parallel track at the annual conventions in previous generations.

Hall today maintains a busy schedule as superintendent of Richard Milburn Academy, overseeing a school system with eight charter schools and traveling internationally.

Q: How would you sum up your experience as AASA president in 1978-79?

Hall: Being president of AASA was the best thing I’ve done. It was a lot of fun. It was a joyous time, and I thank the Lord for the opportunity. I came to know a lot of fine people.

During my year as president, I traveled to 38 states (including Hawaii and Alaska) and two countries. For a country boy, Alaska and Hawaii, that’s really living! The school board said I was gone 212 days. (He laughs.) But they were good about it. They supported me.

Q. Tell me about your background and how you came to be president of AASA.

Hall: I taught in a one-room school back in 1941, then served in the U.S. Army. When I got out, I worked as a principal and then superintendent in several Texas districts. I took a post as an interim superintendent, where I stayed for eight years.

I became president of the Texas Association of School Administrators. My interest in AASA increased, and I was elected to the Executive Committee.

Q: What was it like when you joined the Executive Committee in 1976 and then in ’78 when you were elected AASA president?

Hall: When I served on the Executive Committee, it had only six members. We met about five times a year and worked together closely, so we came to know each other well. I came to know past president Frank Dick. He served well, and he had a great perspective.

When I decided to run for president-elect, it was really a full-fledged national election. Campaigning was a big thing, involving lots of travel. Today running for president is more of a regional election.

At the time I won, I was 45 and the youngest person to hold the position.

Q: What was AASA doing at the time?

Hall: In the mid-to late ‘70s, AASA was doing well. Membership was growing. Attendance at Atlantic City was 23,000. In Las Vegas, we had 30,000. We were starting new professional development programs, such as the Summer Instructional Management Conference. At that time, the federal government was getting involved in education. There was federal money being passed along to schools that allowed people to travel to conferences.

AASA publications were, in my opinion, the best professional development around. I recall one about approaching members of the legislature. Many publications were like a college course.

During that year, we were always going to Capitol Hill and meeting with senators. On my trip to Alaska, I met before the Senate committee. Then I went onto the radio to speak.

Q: And AASA’s membership?

Hall: Membership was growing. AASA served a broader group – it was superintendents and central-office staff. Now the focus is trying to attract just superintendents. And I think we’re doing well, even though membership has been declining. Balancing the needs of different member groups is always difficult.. We tried to refigure our convention to attract smaller districts. We reduced the membership dues for college professors because they typically had to pay for it out-of-pocket instead of the district.

Q: What’s changed over the years?

Hall: When I started, some state associations were one-man operations. They didn’t offer much in the way of professional development. And at one time, AASA was helping them financially. We had started NASE (National Academy of School Executives) programs, which were five-day, in-depth programs. AASA offered lots of them in various locations. It was like taking a mini-college course. Then the states figured out that they could offer programs and make money. That put us out of business.

Q: What about June Gabler coming on as the first female president of AASA?

Hall: When Superintendent June Gabler of Romulus, Mich., came onto the Executive Committee, that was a change. She was the first woman. At first, some people backed off to see how she’d do, but she worked real hard. She broke that ground. She did a good job.

Q. What was the role of spouses’ activities at the AASA conference?

Hall: The Partners Program was very large when I was president. The luncheon drew about 700. We think it actually attracted people to the conference. The programs had to be meaningful. But since then, the program started to lose the participation.

Q: How do you keep in touch with AASA members these days?

Hall: Of course, the publications. And with my wife, Billye, we have missed only one or two conventions since 1978. I love going to the past presidents’ dinner because it keeps up connections. Billye was friends with the wife of former President Gale Bartow and they’ve visited us here in McQueeney.

 

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