And so the time has come for me to complete my final reflections on a year as your president. When I started out almost a year ago, the term I shared with all of you was UBUNTU. Ubuntu is a southern African term that translates nicely to “I am because we are.” The entire philosophy is that a person is a person through other people. We do not exist or thrive in isolation – we live and prosper through others, and when we give to others, that love, caring, respect and nurturing comes back to us tenfold.
As I traveled around the state, I was always impressed by the extraordinary leadership that I observed. Our schools, districts, and county offices have incredibly gifted and committed leaders who give more to their students than they often do for themselves or their own families. We live in a profession of giving...of connecting...of caring. Thank you to all of you who welcomed me this year and who challenged me in my own personal journey of growth. To the leaders in our regions and charters statewide, your dedication continues to impress and amaze because you balance the day jobs and families with the volunteer work of this organization for the work we do collectively; ACSA is because each of you is – we are because you are.
To the staff of ACSA, I say thank you. We thank them frequently at events for the work that they do, but I say with all sincerity that their commitment to the leaders of this state who support the 6.2 million public school students is incomparable and we are fortunate to have such a team. Special thanks to Lori Allred, Suzanne Caffrey, Laura Preston and Scarlett Vanyi. Having seen the transition of our organization over the last five years since we had a change in leadership, I can see what our Executive Director Wes Smith has truly led and I continue to be impressed and humbled to call him our leader (and my colleague).
This year has been one of taking a stance. We supported districts as they became “safe havens” for undocumented students, staff members and families, and then we filed an amicus brief addressing the legality of the 2017 Department of Homeland Security rescinding of DACA, a decision that affected student safety. We endorsed Marshall Tuck for superintendent of public instruction. We began a design of a new strategic plan that will send our organization into a new trajectory. Finally, we responded to the need for something to be done around school safety and launched the Fatal School Violence Task Force, a team that will work hard this summer in the areas of preparedness, prevention and advocacy/legislation.
Here’s to a summer that I hope brings you some time to reflect, refresh, practice mindfulness, and return to students in late summer ready to take on a new year, new challenges and new goals. So I conclude with a Mayan phrase that seems most fitting: In Lak’ech
In Lak’ech translates to: I am you and you are me. The way to a good end is to create a positivity for life, especially through leadership. Every action we take affects other living things. We are who we are when we are strong together. And with ACSA, we are many members and we are many schools and districts.
But we are one ACSA. Thank you for the opportunity to serve and to lead.
– Lisa Gonzales