Inclusion, advocacy, and increased relevance reportedly are high on the agenda of Daniel A. Domenech, the former superintendent of Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), who takes over as executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) on July 1. A past AASA president and current private-sector executive, Domenech will succeed Paul D. Houston, who is retiring June 30, after 14 years.
[Editor’s note: To watch an exclusive eSN-TV interview with Domenech, visit www.eschoolnews.com/video/domenech.]
The change in leadership comes at a time when many school stakeholders believe AASA is in need of new direction and a fresh voice to make it more responsive to 21st-century education challenges.
"The appointment of Dan Domenech as executive director of AASA is nothing short of spectacular," said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. "Dan brings not only a career of strong superintendencies, but a lifelong commitment to children of all races, creeds, and origin. His own story, well known to his colleagues in the field, serves as an inspiration to all of our work. Public education is the beacon of light to most children, and we need to commit ourselves to making it even better for all children."
Domenech is a 29-year member of AASA, which currently has around 11,000 members. He served as its president from July 1998 to June 1999. He also is a past president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, the Suffolk County Superintendents Association, and the Suffolk County Organization for Promotion of Education. He was the first president and cofounder of the New York State Association for Bilingual Education.
In taking the helm at AASA, Domenech will leave his current position as senior vice president and head of the Urban Advisory Resource for McGraw-Hill Education, where he is responsible for building strong relationships with large school districts nationwide.
Before joining McGraw-Hill, Domenech was superintendent of FCPS, the 12th largest school district in the nation, for six years.
"I know Dan, and he’s an excellent choice for AASA," says Jack Dale, Fairfax County’s current superintendent. "He is an excellent spokesperson for public education, for kids in public schools, and for people charged with educating our nation’s youth. With McGraw-Hill, he continued his work with large urban school systems, the challenges they face, the support they need, and the governance structures that help and impede that work. Dan has a great deal of energy and can reignite AASA’s role in national education policy."
From 1994-1997, Domenech was superintendent of the Second Supervisory District of Suffolk County, N.Y., and chief executive officer of the Western Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Previously, he served as superintendent for Deer Park Schools and the South Huntington School District, both in Long Island. He served as program director for the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services–the largest intermediate school district in New York–and began his career as a sixth grade teacher in Queens, N.Y.
He has had more than 36 years of experience in public education altogether.
In an interview with eSchool News, Domenech said he plans to use his experience as "both a teacher in a smaller district and a leader of many large districts to make sure all districts–whether large and urban, or small and rural–have a voice in AASA and have their needs addressed. While sometimes a one-size-fits-all plan works, you also have to plan for districts with varied needs."
Domenech’s plans for AASA include helping the organization become more of a national presence in Washington, D.C.
This might prove to be a challenge, because over the years, AASA seems to have lost its impact on the national scene, according to many observers.
Jane McDonald, a former AASA member and professor at George Mason University, said a growing number of people are "joining their state administrative associations rather than the national group, because they believe the state groups are more focused on their immediate needs and provide a network close to home."
She continued: "Although AASA has been active with general education, I don’t know where [it has] been helpful, nationally, for leaders of education."
"Our main goal will be to have every superintendent in America [become] a member of AASA," Domenech told eSchool News. "This will really give us a voice in D.C. and [will allow us to] become powerful advocates on behalf of children in the U.S. With that kind of membership, we can go to Congress, the White House, everywhere, and be heard, because we will be the education leaders of America."
One way he plans to increase membership will be to reach out to younger generations of school superintendents and administrators, as well as women. Currently, AASA’s average member age is 50, and only 25 percent of members are women. Women constitute approximately 70 percent of educators at large and about two-thirds of all K-12 administrators.
"Including people from every demographic will help us reach our potential," said Domenech. "Being a young superintendent myself years ago, I know what it’s like. I will do everything I can to inspire and help many generations and both genders."
When Domenech served as superintendent at FCPS, he blazed a trail using technology as a means of bringing equitable access to educational opportunities for all students, and he says he believes now more than ever that technology must play an important part in education.
"Technology has reshaped the role of teacher from a talking head to a director of learning," he said. "Technology affords teachers the luxury of individualizing instruction, but many teachers still need to take advantage of technology and be retrained so that they’re no longer imparters of knowledge, but directors of knowledge, to their students."
He also believes technology will help AASA maintain its operations and foster better communication among members. "We’ll be using a lot of technology to help our members communicate with each other and provide crucial resources," he said.
Said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer for the Consortium for School Networking, "Fairfax was, and still is, a leader in the use of information technologies. I would expect Domenech to lead AASA to take an increased interest in how technologies can create engaging 21st-century learning environments. With his public and private sector experience, he understands the importance of leadership and vision and that technology must be viewed from an enterprise perspective."
"This is an exciting time at AASA," said Domenech. "The association is taking bold, new steps to revitalize its mission and strengthen its programs and services. … I look forward to leading this revitalization effort."
(Editor’s note: You can watch our entire interview with Domenech here.)
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