The Advocate: February 2021

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The Advocate: February 2021

February is usually a time when we look forward to seeing superintendents from across the country gathering together somewhere warm or fun (or both) and chatting about the politics of Washington, the politics of their hometowns and learning together from great leaders and inspiring thinkers. While we won’t be in sunny San Diego this year, AASA’s Policy & Advocacy team is still excited to have some great professional learning opportunities planned this month, culminating in our first-ever virtual National Conference on Education.

Before we describe some of the sessions we have selected for the Policy & Advocacy strand, you should know we have intentionally decided not to offer our annual Federal Advocacy Update this year as part of NCE. We know you’re not seeing us or hearing from our team as often as you normally would, and we didn’t want to compete for your time and attention with so other many great sessions at our national conference. So, we are offering our normal, full-team, one-hour, jam-packed federal education policy update on February 10 at 2 p.m. ET for any and all AASA members. You can sign up to register here and if you can’t attend, you can still obtain a copy of our PPT and a link to watch the event afterwards.

Back to NCE: This year we wanted to offer not just sessions you know and love (like our superintendent salary and contract session with Maree Sneed), but also sessions that feature some high profile, diverse speakers who can and should push you to think differently, or at least think more deeply about your job as a federal advocate for your district.

The first of these is a session with Jessica Rosenworcel, acting FCC chairwoman and a long-time friend of AASA. Rosenworcel has been a commissioner at the FCC since 2011. Throughout her tenure at the Commission, her focus on closing the digital divide for students has been outstanding.. We are thrilled that President Biden has nominated this champion for digital equity for kids to be the new chairwoman of the FCC. This is a great opportunity to hear what she wants to do to support the E-Rate program and other programs that touch connectivity in schools in her new role.

The next two sessions we wanted to flag are complimentary in their focus on school segregation. The first features Richard Rothstein, one of the boldest and most heralded scholars on the subject. Rothstein will again share with AASA members the history of school segregation and the role that the U.S. Government played in creating and sustaining racially segregated school systems. As a compliment to this session, we are excited to introduce you to Chana Joffe Walt, a radio journalist and producer, whose podcast Nice White Parents, exploded in popularity this summer for its view that one of the most powerful forces in shaping our public schools, White parents, are at the heart of what’s wrong with our public schools. Nice White Parents was recorded over a five-year period and describes various attempts to integrate our public schools over the course of American history, including the present day, and how White parents who say they want integration and diversity often become obstacles to true racial equity.

We also have sessions that are focused on what superintendents are dealing with right now: COVID cases. We couldn’t help but do an NCE session with Emily Oster, a renowned health economist from Brown University. She has partnered with AASA in the development of a COVID-19 database for districts. Oster, along with Qualtrics, a brilliant firm that maintains the database, will describe how districts can utilize the platform, what we know so far about COVID spread in schools (based on data provided by AASA members) and what mitigation strategies appear to be the most effective based on our data.  Finally, given that the work of superintendents, particularly these days, is highly scrutinized by local, state and national media, we compiled a panel comprised of the best of the best in education policy journalism that will not only give you their take on what’s happening in federal education policy these days and their predictions for the Biden Administration and new Congress, but also provide ideas for how to engage with reporters most effectively, particularly when it comes to national issues. You won’t want to miss the conversation with reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post and Education Week.

We hope you can make it to some of these exciting sessions. Stay safe and healthy. 

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