“As I look around the room, this is where the foundation is … I want to salute these individuals who have blazed the trail for public education today for the children of America. We can redefine what America is.”

Those were the words of Gregory Thornton, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools at the Inaugural Convening of the first cohort of superintendents participating in the AASA/Howard University Urban Academy.

The 25 school system leaders gathered at the campus of Howard University on Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

During his remarks, Thornton recalled the riots that swept through Baltimore earlier this year. “I would see blocks and blocks of deserted homes, homes where weeds were growing in the basement. I looked at places where our communities have been disenfranchised with unemployment. Today, I am excited to be at Howard. As we move forward, we are working together. I am looking forward to a professional relationship that will change the trajectory of America.”

 Launched at AASA’s National Conference on Education in February, the Academy is a collaboration between Howard University and AASA to prepare individuals for certification and success in urban and increasingly diverse suburban settings. The partnership is also designed to expand the pool of underrepresented superintendent groups.

“We are delighted that the nation’s premier superintendent’s association, AASA, affirmed our vision and is leading with us on this important effort,” said Leslie T. Fenwick, dean, Howard University School of Education. “For the first time in United States history, more than 50 percent of the nation’s public school children represent African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian or other ethnic minority groups and for the first time the majority of the nation’s public school students are classified as poor.”

Fenwick added, “50 percent of English language learners are American-born. Yet for all of this diversity in the public school student population there is a yawning diversity gap between the nation’s students and the school personnel who serve them.”

“As school superintendents, you have one of the most demanding and one of the most important jobs anywhere in America today,” Marc H. Morial, National Urban League president and CEO, said in a pre-recorded statement. “Your task is to lead. Your task is to plan. Your task is to motivate. Your task is to be the hub inside the spoke that our nation’s public schools represent today. And today, education is about a diverse population. It’s about children of color. It’s about children who may not have been born in the U.S.”

In another pre-recorded statement, Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, said, “It was tough when I was a superintendent and it’s gotten even tougher for superintendents in urban settings. We want to make sure that superintendents have the opportunity and the longevity to stay on the job long enough to make a difference and that’s at least five years. We thank Howard for their cooperation … in making sure you are our best leaders in urban schools.”

The two cohorts served by this program are:

Cohort One: Prospective superintendents who wish to pursue a Doctorate in Educational Leadership while preparing for certification as an urban superintendent as well as state superintendent licensure.

Cohort Two: Current superintendents and administrators wishing to receive additional training and field experience in educational leadership related to urban settings.

“You are doers and believers. You stepped forward to join this effort to take part in what we believe is so important for this country,” said Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership services and awards. “Creating this Urban Superintendents Academy, all of you know that there are deserts in our cities, deserts of knowledge, deserts of health care and deserts of basic services for children. I hope that as we work together, our work brings joy and greenery to those deserts and we bring remarkable education to all of our cities, large and small.”

“I am so glad to be here. First and foremost, Howard, thank you,” said Sharon Adams-Taylor, AASA associate executive director, children initiatives and program development. “We know that the superintendency is an isolated position. You are the ones in your community with not a lot of people to talk to. [The Academy] is going to be a wonderful experience. This will be unlike any graduate program.” 

“We are in a critical stage in our personal lives, professional lives and the history of this country,” said Joe Hairston, assistant professor, Howard University. “This is a new era for public education. We have new expectations for leadership. The operative word is innovation and creating opportunities for success. It will happen right here. We’ve become the incubator for that next global leadership cohort that is sitting right here in this room.

“At the end of the day there is only one thing that counts: whether or not our children learn, whether or not our children achieve,” said Morial. “Thank you, Howard, for this important undertaking. Thank you AASA for the important support.”

“Thank you for your energy, passion and spirit,” said Sherman. “Most of all, the children of this country, thank you.”

The Inaugural Convening was graciously sponsored by ABMM Financial, a service organization specializing in retirement planning for administrators, educators and other public school employees. “We are a new company proud to support this new venture,” said David B. Ciotta, CEO and co-founder of ABMM. “If you look at the mission statements of the Academy, Howard University and our company, you will see many common themes. Our visions are similar on support, leadership and growth. We are all forward thinking and service-based organizations with a singular goal of helping a diverse group of people.”

Ciotta added that when he looked around the room, two thoughts that came to mind immediately were the camaraderie among the participants and the high degree of respect they had for one another. “It was very exciting to see,” Ciotta stated. “You know just by observing how these outstanding educators engage with each other that we will have a very successful program, which will bring positive results to urban districts.”

For more information about the AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy, visit the AASA website. For questions, contact Bernadine Futrell, AASA director awards and collaborations atbfutrelL@aasa.org or 703-875-0717.

Urban Supes2

The 2015 AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendents Academy Cohort is comprised of:

  • Danielle Butler, principal, East Cleveland City School District (East Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Rosa Cabrera, principal, Houston Independent School District (Houston, Texas)
  • Shaundra Coleman, educator, Dallas Independent School District (Dallas, Texas)
  • Mike Daria, assistant superintendent, Tuscaloosa City Schools (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
  • Traci Davis, superintendent, Washoe County School District (Reno, Nev.)
  • Lendozia Edwards, campus dean, Strayer University, (Atlanta, Ga.)
  • Christine Fowler-Mack, chief portfolio officer, Cleveland Metropolitan School (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Anthony Hamlet, area superintendent, Palm Beach County School District (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
  • Lisa Hathaway, regional vice president, Pearson (Washington, D.C.)
  • Jessica Huizenga, assistant superintendent, Cambridge Public School District (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Lenora Jenkins, superintendent, Murphy Elementary School District 21 (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  • Gonzalo La Cava, area superintendent, Fulton County Schools (Atlanta, Ga.) 
  • Douglas Luke, college administrator, Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, Texas)
  • Michael Merriman, teacher, Garland Independent School District (Garland, Texas)
  • Herb Monroe, principal, Henrico County School District (Henrico, Va.)
  • Gwendolyn Page, superintendent, East Jasper School District (Heidelberg, Miss.)
  • Thomas Parker, superintendent, Ecorse Public School District (Ecorse, Mich.)
  • Joseph Prisinzano, assistant to the superintendent, Jericho Union Free School District (Jericho, N.Y.)
  • Eric Rosser, executive vice president of operations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake (Salisbury, Md.) 
  • Anthony Smith, area superintendent, Clayton County Public Schools (Jonesboro, Ga.)
  • Inger Swimpson, director of human resources and development, Montgomery County Public Schools (Rockville, Md.)
  • Rod Thompson, superintendent, Shakopee School District 720 (Shakopee, Minn.)
  • Andrae Townsel, vice principal, District of Columbia Public Schools (Washington, D.C.)
  • Douglas Ward, principal, Fulton Leadership Academy (Atlanta, Ga.) 
  • Jonathan Woods, chief leadership and operations office, Provost Academy Georgia, Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia (Atlanta, Ga.)

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