Leaders as Learners

(Lead To Learn, Equality, Aspiring Superintendents) Permanent link

Leaders as Learners

By Dr. Gail Pletnick

gail-pletnick-nce17From ink wells, to pencils, to typewriters, to keyboards, the resources and tools in education continue changing, just as the concepts and skills needed to prepare our students iterates. The world has moved from the industrial era of old, to the information age of today, and is rapidly transitioning to the innovation age of tomorrow. This evolution dictates that our schools must change and transform to prepare our students for their future. Ink wells can’t be used with iPads. Change is a challenge, but the best way to meet a challenge is to drive the change.

So how do we do that as educational leaders? The answer is simple; as leaders, we must continue to be learners. Leaders must be equipped to tackle the challenging questions associated with the necessary changes in the educational landscape. How should we redefine the profile of a graduate who is future ready? How do we redesign our teaching and learning environments to ensure each student gains the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to be successful?  How do we re-imagine our educational systems for the information and innovation eras? The skills and dispositions our students must be armed with to take on the challenges and opportunities before them, are the same skills and dispositions we, as educational leaders, need to learn and apply as we drive change. We cannot all be experts in everything, but we can be leaders in those things we are passionate about. Professional development for leaders must be personalized to meet the individual needs and passions of the leader. It must be a system that drives growth, a system that enriches the individual and is built on a foundation that creates structures to support change. That personalized approach not only creates the best learning environment for each of our students, but is what best meets the professional needs of the adult learners in our systems.

In my district, Dysart Unified School District, we are committed to personalizing learning for our students. We recognize for that vision to become a reality, we must support the growth of our educators. That growth of leaders as learners can be supported through a variety of personalized professional development options. Dysart District is working to expand leadership learning and capacity through personalized staff development options such as, our  Your CALL initiative,  Dysart U, Menu Mondays and other internal efforts. Additionally, we encourage our leaders to work collaboratively with educators from across this country who are innovating and driving the transformation we must see in our schools. AASA’s Personalized Learning Cohort and Digital Consortium are two examples of opportunities for leaders to work collaboratively, on critical problems of practice utilizing creative and supportive approaches. It is valuable to learn from people who have a similar focus and challenge, but bring unique perspective and ideas on implementing their vision. The AASA supported cohorts provide opportunities for personalized professional development that inspires the leader as a learner.   

Critical Friends Come Together in Chicago

(Lead To Learn, Equality, Aspiring Superintendents, Digital Consortium) Permanent link

Critical Friends Come Together in Chicago

By Yelena Minasyan



The AASA Digital Consortium, held July 27-29 in Chicago, brought together dozens of superintendents, assistant superintendents, and school technology directors from across the country to share ideas about using digital media to reimagine ways of teaching and learning to enhance student outcomes.

Nick Polyak, superintendent of Leyden High School District 212, and Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of Deerfield Public Schools District 109, welcomed all educators as their respective districts served as co-hosts of the consortium.

The group visited West Leyden High School on the first day of the meeting to learn about the district’s Tech Support Internship (TSI). Students who enroll in TSI acquire hands-on technology experience, and provide tech support to teachers and students. On the same day, attendees visited the metal lab, which prepares future engineers by building their expertise through machinery.

The second day of the consortium had an early start—the first stop was West Leyden High School where Jaime Casap, education evangelist at Google, served as keynote speaker. Throughout the inspirational speech, he discussed how the future is today. Lubelfeld tweeted, “The future is TODAY education for today. The present is a gift.” Casap also explained how “computer science is in everything we do. STEM jobs are going to increase rapidly within the next couple years and positions are going to be needed to fill them.” He raised the question “How do we prepare kids for their future?”

Everyone was excited to visit Google’s Chicago office later that day. The interior design of the building was very impressive- it was filled with vibrant furniture with a relaxed atmosphere. Many superintendents indicated they would like to see this kind of atmosphere in their schools. Students from Leyden High Schools joined the meeting and were interviewed by group members. The students' responses were consistent across the room; it was apparent they want to have a voice in the way they learn. During the workshop, superintendents were able to prepare for their “ignite sessions” which occurred on the final day of the meeting

On Day No. 3, administrators attended Deerfield School District 109 and observed STEAM labs. Solar panels on the outside of the buildings made the school more energy efficient. Alabama Superintendent Trey Holladay shared images of the lab on twitter, noting "moveable walls, measuring floors, [and] interactive cameras.” The student's voice is critical when making decisions how to reimagine the learning spaces.

During the meeting, superintendents learned new ways about how they can implement these ideas into their school districts. They will share the results in October at the next Digital Consortium, which will take place in San Francisco.



To keep up with the Digital Consortium, access: 



Yelena Minasyan, AASA Intern, Student at George Mason University, Global Community Health



Amen's All Around

(Lead To Learn, Urban Superintendents, Aspiring Superintendents) Permanent link

"Amen"s All Around

  By Mollie Sherman


 It’s always a pleasure to hear passion in people’s voices as they speak on something they truly believe in- my week with the West Coast cohort indulged me time and time again as Superintendents from across the country shared their stories. There was a warmth of comradery in the air as peers turned in their seats to listen to each other formulate ideas and hypothesize initiatives to further their district’s learning. They challenged each other to become truly 21st century educators, and each superintendent rose to the occasion with resolve to bring positive and lasting change to the education our children receive in the public school system. Daniel Cox, Superintendent of the Charles City Community School District in Iowa, spoke to the spirit of this resolution during an activity centered around technology integration as he shared his view of the superintendent’s unique role to “engage, empower, and inspire” their districts.

The personal note of experience inflecting each of their shared thoughts touched on the drive to persevere. A handful of superintendents presented their “Leadership Stories” of growth, highlighting the curves in the path of their lives that brought them to this position of leadership that allows them to enact continuous, bettering transformation. Many spoke of their parents or family influencing their belief in the value of education- it was incredible to note how many of the superintendents in the room had parents that had barely completed their college education, and some even high school. Michael Muñoz, Superintendent of Rochester Public Schools in Minnesota, shared with the cohort words from his father that stay with him to this day: “Education is a key.” Muñoz, who earlier spoke on some of his experiences growing up as a person of color, expanded on his father’s words, stating that for him it became obvious that “with an education I have a key to open any door to be whatever I want to be.”

At the session’s end, a resounding ‘amen’ surrounded the re-energizing and affirming nature of these sessions that leave the cohort feeling confident and prepared to better serve their districts’ well-being. As Larry Perondi, program mentor and former Superintendent of Oceanside Unified School District in California vocalized in his closing remarks, the commitment and passion of educational leaders was evident in the room, and I was truly fortunate to have witnessed such a significant meeting of academic collaboration.


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