AASA, Howard University Kick off 2nd Urban Academy

Urban Supts Summit 1
Nearly 30 educators from coast to coast convened in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 26, 2016, as part of the AASA/Howard University 2nd Annual Urban Superintendents Summit. The newest cohort will work for the next 12 months in an effort to eventually be leaders of urban public school systems.  

“Thank you so much for being here. Understand that this is all about you,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “I can assure you that will find this to be an outstanding experience, probably the best professional development experience you will have.”  

Urban Supts Summit 2Launched in 2015, the Urban Superintendents Academy prepares individuals for certification and success in urban and increasingly diverse suburban settings. The AASA-Howard University partnership is also designed to expand the pool of underrepresented superintendent groups. 

“Our nation needs this. Our schools demand this. Our children deserve this,” said Dawn Williams, interim dean of education at Howard University.  

“Please note that you are now a part of our Bison family, which means that you have adopted a deep commitment to fighting social justice issues,” noted Williams. “We have great expectations of you and we are invested in you. Howard University and AASA are collectively poised to provide a training program that provides guided leadership experiences.” 

In May, nearly 30 participants—the inaugural cohort—graduated from the nearly year-long program created to develop thought leaders who will represent the vast number of children in urban communities across the country. 

A key aspect throughout the Academy will include consistent emphasis upon “problems of practice,” enabling the participating cohort to investigate together potential solutions for universal and site-specific problems, issues and dilemmas facing urban superintendents today. 

“This is a calling, a pleasure and honor,” said Mort Sherman, associate executive director, AASA, and co-director of the AASA/Howard Urban Superintendents Academy. “This is a continuation of being able of securing a future for this country.” 

NAACP Applauds AASA/Howard University Urban Academy 

Urban Supts Summit 3Through its work to strengthen urban school districts across the country and address the needs of students within these communities, the Academy received praise from the NAACP.  

“As an organization that has represented people of color since 1909, we firmly believe in public education,” said Victor Goode, assistant general counsel, NAACP. “The NAACP salutes AASA and Howard University for your efforts to address the needs of all of our children.”   

Leslie T. Fenwick is a professor and dean emerita at Howard University and a one of the founders of Urban Academy. She told participants, “You should be commended for your dedication to be a relevant and impactful superintendent. You will soon join a very select set of individuals called to lead the nation’s school districts at a time of increasing student diversity and constricted resources.” 

Former superintendent Josh Starr, the current CEO of Phi Delta Kappa International, said, “I cannot underestimate the power of having people next to you. The superintendency is really lonely. Use that power of having colleagues to call.” He added, “As we re-enter our school buildings today, make sure every single adult knows that every child needs to feel loved and valued.”  

Rushern L. Baker III, Prince George’s (Md.) County Executive concluded the morning’s session by sharing a few life experiences and how much he values public education. “Your calling card is public education,” said Baker. “You can’t have economic development, you can’t have progress without (strengthening) the school system.”  

“We don’t want you to be a maintainer of the status quo,” added Domenech. “The children need you to be change agents, now more than ever.”  

Urban Supts Summit 4As part of the program, a panel discussion delved into effective urban leadership. Panelists included Ruthanne Buck, senior advisor, U.S. Dept. of Education; Noelle Ellerson, associate executive director, policy and advocacy, AASA; Greg Hutchings, superintendent, Shaker Heights, Ohio; Dana Bedden, superintendent, Richmond, Va.; Martha James Hassan, asst. professor, Towson University, Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and AASA/Howard Univ. Urban Academy alum. 

Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers whose story is told in the 2007 hit movie, Freedom Writers, served as the program’s featured speaker. He shared an inspiring story about his exposure to impoverished conditions, drugs, domestic violence and family alcoholism. His life however turned around. He his now married with three children and recently earned his master’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley. He also served as a keynote speaker at AASA’s 2016 National Conference on Education in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Urban Supts Summit 5

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