Champions for Educational Equity to Receive AASA Humanitarian Award

January 09, 2024


James Minichello

K-12 Leaders Francisco Durán (Va.), Alena Zachery-Ross (Mich.) to be recognized at AASA’s 2024 National Conference on Education

Alexandria, Va. – January 9, 2024 AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, an annual recognition of education leaders committed to the advancement and mentorship of women and people of color, and/or addressing social justice issues among children and adults in schools.

The 2024 honorees were selected for this award because they exemplify the qualities modeled by the late Dr. Effie Hall Jones, a school administrator, teacher, counselor and former AASA associate executive director. The 2024 recipients are:

“These two outstanding individuals continue to break down barriers and build bridges to ensure that the field of educational leadership is richer and more accessible to a wide range of qualified educators,” said David R. Schuler, executive director, AASA. “Dr. Jones, a trailblazer throughout her illustrious career, would have been proud of our honorees for their unselfish devotion to the students they serve and the communities in which they live.” 

“These two outstanding individuals continue to break down barriers and build bridges to ensure that the field of educational leadership is richer and more accessible to a wide range of qualified educators.”

Durán and Zachery-Ross will receive their awards during the first general session at AASA’s 2024 National Conference on Education, Feb. 15, in San Diego, Calif. On the second day of the conference, the awardees will be honored at the Dr. Effie Hall Jones Memorial Equity Luncheon, an event co-hosted by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and the National Alliance of Black School Educators, and graciously sponsored by the Institute for Educational Innovation.

About the honorees

Durán has a diverse background in education spanning 30 years, in a variety of large urban school divisions. He is a bilingual educator who began his career as a special education assistant, and he served as a middle school language arts and social studies teacher. He went on to hold administrative and leadership positions in the San Francisco Unified School District, served as a regional superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, chief academic and equity officer in Fairfax County, Virginia, and superintendent of Trenton Public Schools in New Jersey. Durán is also an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Howard University. On May 7, 2020, the Arlington School Board appointed Durán as superintendent and he was reappointed to a second four-year term on July 1. 2023.


In 2018, Durán was appointed to a four-year term on the Virginia State Board of Education where he played a key role in the adoption of the new Standards of Quality for Virginia. He has been a lifelong champion for students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ youth, and increasing the number of women and people of color in leadership positions. In Fairfax County as chief academic and equity officer, he helped develop, initiate, and implement the “One Fairfax” policy to close opportunity, access and achievement gaps, a joint social and racial equity policy with Fairfax County Government. Durán is the immediate past president of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) and has served on the board of directors for nine years.

Alena Zachery-Ross is an accomplished educational leader with extensive experience in K-12 school administration and central office management. She has served as the superintendent of Ypsilanti Community Schools since 2018 and has previously held leadership positions in Okemos Public Schools and Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System. During her tenure in Muskegon Heights, she successfully transformed the entire district, improving student discipline, attendance, and graduation rates and reducing dropout rates.


As a visionary leader, Zachery-Ross is passionate about leadership development and group collaboration. She has extensive experience in curriculum development, multicultural education, school safety, budget and finance, professional learning communities, group facilitation, team building, grant writing, community relations, and data analysis. She has also completed several leadership programs, including the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators Horizons Leadership Program, AASA's National Superintendent's Certification Program, and AASA's Howard Urban Superintendent's Academy.

For additional information about the Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award, contact Ashley Dawson at or visit the AASA website.


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