AASA Honors Veteran Educators for Distinguished Service at National Conference on Education



James Minichello
703-774-6953 (cell) 

San Diego – Feb. 16, 2020AASA, The School Superintendents Association, honored two outstanding educators including the immediate past president of the association, with its Distinguished Service Awards. The 2020 honorees are Chris Gaines, superintendent of the Mehlville (Mo.) School District, and past president of AASA; and Johnny Veselka, former executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators.   

A ceremony to recognize these individuals was held at AASA’s National Conference on Education in San Diego, Calif. 

“For the outstanding work they’ve done on behalf of public education, the AASA family owes a huge debt of gratitude to our 2020 Distinguished Service honorees,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “A past president of AASA, Chris Gaines continues to break down barriers on behalf of his students, particularly in the areas of personalized learning and digital learning. Meanwhile, I’ve always been a great admirer of Johnny Veselka, the longtime executive director of our Texas affiliate, the Texas Association of School Administrators. TASA continues to serve as a viable voice for school system leadership largely due to Johnny’s guidance.”     

The Distinguished Service Award honorees are recognized by AASA for bringing honor to themselves, their colleagues and their profession; rendering exemplary service to their state or national professional association; and contributing to the education field through writing, public advocacy or other activities.

Chris Gaines 
An education innovator, Chris Gaines, superintendent of Mehlville School District in suburban St. Louis, Mo., is a leader in digital transformation and personalizing the learning experience for all students. His leadership has resulted in higher levels of student engagement and academic achievement at each of the districts he has served.

Gaines has served as a school superintendent for the past 19 years. Prior to Mehlville School District, he led Missouri’s Wright City R-II School District and Crawford County R-1 School District. Before taking on those roles, Gaines was a high school principal, science teacher, math teacher, coach and bus driver.

A national and state leader in education, Gaines is the past president of AASA. He also serves on the Missouri Association of School Administrators Executive Committee. He holds degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and earned his doctorate in educational leadership at Saint Louis University.

Johnny L. Veselka
Johnny Veselka retired in June 2018 after serving as executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators for more than 32 years. Under his leadership, TASA became a major voice for school administrators on legislative and state policy matters, and became the leading provider of professional development for school system leaders in Texas. TASA’s Public Education Visioning Institute (2006) published the document “Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas,” focused on school transformation. Through his efforts, the Texas Legislature then created the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium to facilitate the Institute’s work. He guided the development of the Texas Public Accountability Consortium and, prior to his retirement, organized the TASA 2025 Task Force to create a strategic framework for the association’s future.

An AASA member for 36 years, he actively promoted collaboration between AASA and the state associations. Upon his retirement, Veselka was named Executive Director Emeritus in recognition of his service to the association.     

Regarded as the most comprehensive professional learning and networking event for school superintendents and administrators, AASA’s National Conference on Education is addressing the most critical issues affecting public education today, including equity in education, social and emotional learning, personalizing education, early learning, technology, and school safety and leadership.

For more information about the converence, access Conference Daily Online.


About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.