Inaugural Social and Emotional Learning Cohort Meeting Kicks Off in Nashville

April 1, 2019, by Jimmy Minichello

Groundbreaking Initiative Designed to Meet the Needs of the ‘Whole Child’ 

The AASA Social and Emotional Learning Cohort is holding its first meeting in Nashville, Tenn., bringing dozens of educators from across the country together for this historic event.

Beginning with this gathering, the cohort will meet twice a year and virtually connect in between meetings to develop case studies, action plans, resources and other publications that will be shared with AASA members.

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"This conversation didn't start last year or in 1970 when I became a teacher," said Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership network, before a packed audience. "It's an ongoing conversation because we care about kids."

The outstanding superintendents serving as cohort co-chairs, inlcude Traci Davis, Washoe County School District, Reno, Nev.; Michael Rice, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Janet Robinson, Stratford Public Schools, Stratford, Conn.

"I really feel how important the social and emotional learning is and how important mental health services are," said Robinson. "Those kinds of things have to be available and supportive at times you cannot predict."

Robinson was the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools when, on a crisp December day in 2012, a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and six educators.

"I'm very passionate about the work of the cohort," Robinson added.

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"Our children are much more than a test score," said Davis. "As we do this work together for our children, it's important to know that everyone has a story. The story about kids is more important than a test."

(Educators are encouraged to read the September 2018 issue of School Administrator, AASA’s award-winning magazine. This particular issue focuses on SEL and contains the story, "The School Climate Connection with SEL," which is penned by Davis. In her article, she writes about how her school district created a system-wide strategy for expanding SEL in her community.)

During the three-day event, presented by AASA in partnership with Panorama Education, Move This World and Right at School, superintendents participating in this vibrant community will engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers about how SEL is contributing to the whole child—from physical and mental health to the development of fundamental, lifelong learning skills.

"It used to be that I saw this as something you do for children who have extraordinary needs," said Rice. "I have wholly changed my perspective. This is for everyone."


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Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is serving as the host school district for the inaugural meeting. Attendees will spend today visiting MNPS classrooms.

"I thank AASA for bringing this group together," said Shawn Joseph, MNPS superintendent. "It's long overdue. Together, we're much better."

One of the highlights of Sunday's gathering was a discussion and a series of group activities facilitated by Sara LaHayne, Move This World founder and CEO. The exercises focused on utilizing creative expression to build social emotional learning competencies in leaders, teachers and students.

"(SEL) is about every single kid in your district, every single teacher, every single bus driver, every single superintendent. Whoever is serving children in needs to be part of the discussion and part of the solution," added Sherman.

To join the conversation via social media, access #AASA_SEL.

For more information or to find out how to participate in the AASA SEL Cohort, visit the AASA website or contact Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership network, at 703.875.0726 or

Read more:Day No. 2: An Evolution in Nashville