Student’s View: 2018 Legislative Advocacy Conference

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Student’s View: 2018 Legislative Advocacy Conference

By Tatiana Le, student intern, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Leaders MatterI have officially attended my first AASA Legislative Advocacy Conference; what an exciting introduction to the world of Capitol Hill!

As an intern at AASA, The School Superintendent’s Association, I had the opportunity to attend the first two days of this year’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. There, AASA finally launched the Leaders Matter Campaign that I had been hearing about for so long ( The campaign is focused on showcasing superintendent leadership and its effects on schools and students. From what I garnered listening to superintendents speak, I can tell there’s a lot of leadership to show off.

On the first day of the conference, I sat in on the panel sessions. The most interesting was the session titled Higher Education Act and Teacher Shortage with Joni Booth, senior client development consultant, Gallup, Tamara Hiller, deputy director of education, Third Way, and Stephen Kostyo, policy advisor, Learning Policy Institute. I remember losing the entire Spanish department junior year at my high school, but I didn’t anticipate seeing almost every superintendent’s hand go up when asked if they were experiencing teacher shortages. As someone so excited to teach after college, it is disheartening to hear that 69 percent of teachers are not engaged in their job and 73 percent of actively disengaged teachers are looking for a new job.

The panelists noted a handful of reasons I expected to see teachers cite for leaving like pay, career advancement and fit. However, I didn’t expect to hear a reason that has already impacted me: licensure.

I live in Virginia but go to college in Pennsylvania, and so because licensure varies by state, I had to redo my fingerprints and background checks for permission to teach in classroom fieldwork. As a low-income student, I wasted precious time and money in this process.

Women in School Leadership CollageOne of the solutions the panelists suggested was a Common Application for Teacher Licensure. Knowing how popular the college Common App is, the idea is intriguing. It’s a concept I’m taking with me for further research and deliberation with my peers. The presentation slides for all the panel sessions can be found at

On the second day of the conference, I spent some time with Vera Turner, project manager, education and communications at AASA. She was working on taping interviews for the Women in School Leadership Video Series. I got to see women superintendents like Debbi Burdick, Cave Creek Unified School District, Gail Pletnick, Dysart Unified School District, and Traci Davis, Washoe County School District, speak about their leadership experiences.

Every woman had a very different story to tell, but similar key takeaways. Each superintendent mentioned communication and relationship building as keys to their success. Some of the women have been superintendents over 18 years and still accredit their ability to succeed to the support systems they were introduced to by their mentors and women role models. They talked about coming into the position ready to face off against the world and instead found strength in the ability to step back and ask for help.

It was amazing to hear about the journeys these women have had to the superintendency; I never realized how many people become superintendents by circumstance rather than by intention. As inspiring as the interviews were, the videos won’t be released for another couple of months, so I don’t want to prematurely spoil anything. I look forward to seeing the results, which will be available at

So as overwhelming as it was to be barraged by a ballroom full of new faces, I’m really honored I got the opportunity to attend the conference. Listening to President Chris Gaines’ address during the installment reminded me just how much time and effort every member puts into AASA, whether as a member of the governing board, executive committee or as president of the organization. According to him, if the officials on Capitol Hill think that school classrooms are just filled with students sitting at desks in rows, it is the fault of the superintendents for not educating their Representatives and inviting them into their schools. It was incredible to listen to him call everyone to action.

This conference was my first glimpse into the types of events organizations like AASA hold. It also opened my eyes to the level of awareness and sense of responsibility educators take on when representing their districts to their government officials.



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