The 137th annual American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education began last night with a stirring keynote speech from Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army.

Kickbusch, whose 20-year Army career was filled with numerous decorations, including the Legion of Merit, National Defense Service medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service medal, and Meritorious Service medal (four times), has produced an educational video entitled “Porque No–Why Not?,” which empowers students through motivational messages. She shared her wisdom gleaned from her work with students, parents, and educators, as well as her own personal management experiences and research.

More than 3,000 superintendents and executive educators from across the country–and particularly the South and Midwest–are expected to attend this year’s conference in San Antonio, the theme of which is “Stand Up for Public Education: The Heart of Our Democracy.” AASA is focusing its sessions on three areas: Managing the Business, or the day-to-day running of a school district (working with your school board, handling the media, maintaining safe schools, and improving student achievement); Transforming the Business, or shifting the paradigm to move education to the next level; and Preserving Democracy, or exploring the role of schools in today’s diverse world.

This morning’s keynote speech will be delivered by Peter Senge, a senior lecturer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chairman of the Society for Organizational Learning. Senge will discuss the superintendent as CEO of a school system and will provide ideas about how a superintendent can help negotiate among rival interests while maintaining a clear focus of the overall goal: the achievement of universal proficiency.

Check back later for a recap of Senge’s address, as well as some news from the exhibit hall.