President’s Corner

The Stained Glass Window

by Randall H. Collins

When I attended Gordon College in Massachusetts as an undergraduate, students were required to attend chapel services several times a week. Prince Chapel had a stained glass window that I found both fascinating and beautiful. Frankly, I don’t remember the sermons very well, but I have never forgotten the beauty of that window.


The window, I later learned, came from the Marble House in Newport, R.I. It was created during the Victorian Era from fragments of stained glass from medieval France. The hands of some long-forgotten master put the pieces together to produce this work of beauty and wonder.


Pres_CollinsRandall H. Collins

The current state of public education is like the fragments of glass — a collection of interesting yet disjointed pieces. In a resolution put forth by AASA to support a return to the original intent of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the association has called attention to the fact that current federal legislation includes 93 “disjointed programs that would better serve children if organized to provide a seamless array of services and support for children in need.”

In the hustle and bustle of our everyday tasks, we often forget we became educators because we wanted to make a difference. We forget that our position in the community is that of education leader, that our voices matter, that our ideas are sound, and yet, many times we pass up opportunities that are before us.

As superintendents, our task is to command the moral high ground and advocate for those among our students who are most in need. We must capitalize on an opportunity that currently exists, one that comes along infrequently. This moment in history, this chance to make a real difference, may not come again for us. As Robert Kennedy once put it: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events ...”

We need the resolve to take the fragments — all 93 federal programs — and make them available to all of the neediest schools. We need the resolve to develop an accountability system that is, as AASA suggests in its resolution, “clear, accurate, easily understood, and commensurate with the relative contribution of the federal government.”

We need the resolve to hold the same expectations for all children regardless of economic circumstances and the resolve to ensure schools that serve larger concentrations of low-income and minority students are eligible for every federal program aimed at the development, health and general well-being of children. We need to marshal the forces to create a continuum that ignites hope to those without hope.

We must ensure autonomy does not get in the way of accountability. We must ensure all classes are sufficiently rigorous. And, at last, we must call for reasonable voluntary national standards by which all successes can be measured. Then, the whole will become much stronger. As we unify the fragments, the beauty of the window will be revealed.

The opportunity is upon us to restore public education to its once-revered position and to re-establish it as the model that serves all children well. There is no better time than now for us to commit our energies, our influence and our enthusiasm to making sure the promise of American education becomes synonymous with excellence.

I encourage local school systems to adopt the AASA resolution to provide a unified voice to the reframing of ESEA and to support the neediest of our students. The resolution is available on the AASA website.

Randall Collins is AASA president for 2008-09. E-mail: