ED’s Perspective: Milestones, Markers, and Mission

by Gail Connelly, NAESP Executive Director
May 2011, Volume 34, Issue 9

NAESP turned 90 in 2011. That’s a notable anniversary, one that few associations reach. Like most organizations that endure across decades, persevere in difficult moments, prosper in good times, and witness unimaginable global and technological change, NAESP owes its longevity to roots and wings.

First, our roots. NAESP first took root in 1921 when a group of 51 visionary elementary school principals formally established the organization that became NAESP. We owe these wise pioneers, and the others who followed them, a debt of gratitude for their clear-eyed commitment to serving the principalship.

And now, our wings. As we have been reporting for two years, NAESP has been re-inventing itself to adapt to the “new normal” created by the unprecedented economic crisis that buffeted the Association, our state affiliates, and our members and their schools. During these difficult years, NAESP staff and the Board of Directors established new priorities, built organizational capacity to be more nimble and innovative, and positioned the Association to take advantage of the uptick that was sure to follow the downturn—all while tending to our core purpose to serve members, strengthen the principalship, and support the education of young children. While it’s much too early to declare that this Great Recession is over, NAESP is ready to take wing again.

We’ve already made important progress. The Board of Directors recently unanimously authorized Association executive staff to build NAESP’s cash reserves by selling under-utilized space in NAESP headquarters to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and to explore ways to consolidate some resources and operations as a means of reducing operating costs. This partnership enables both organizations to more efficiently serve separate but similarly focused members while maintaining their distinct independence, and it strengthens both organizations’ advocacy on behalf of principals and superintendents. AASA plans to relocate to NAESP headquarters within the next six to 12 months.

In addition, NAESP has accomplished many of the Intermediate Goals for 2008 to 2011 the Board of Directors established to guide the day-to-day activity of the Association in support of four ambitious Vision Goals leading toward our 100th anniversary in 2021. In February, following a thorough assessment by senior staff, the board considered and approved new or modified Intermediate Goals for 2011 to 2014, a timeframe that marks the next phase of the Association’s progress toward the full realization of Vision 2021. The Vision Goals and the new Intermediate Goals have been compiled in a single document.

While NAESP has accomplished a great deal, most notably and dramatically enhancing our advocacy efforts at the federal level on behalf of elementary and middle-level principals, we continue to move forward on new initiatives, including the following:

  • We’re launching valuable new member benefits that are grounded in members’ expressed need for best practices. The theme Best Practices for Better Schools not only identifies our new white paper series, but it also is an organizing structure for NAESP’s virtual community for members (set to go live on July 1) and serves as a new focus for our annual convention.
  • We’re applying steady pressure on the Department of Education to bolster and strengthen elementary and middle-level principals in their unique role as architects of school improvement. Our message is clear: Only a principal can create and sustain an excellent school.
  • We’re fighting on Capitol Hill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and broaden its Title II section, which funds professional development for educators. Currently, only 3 percent of those funds are allocated to principals. We can and must do better as a nation.
  • We’re developing principal evaluation guidelines that are fair, objective, and based on multiple measures, not simply standardized test scores. Our partners in this project are renowned education researchers at Johns Hopkins University and a task force of exemplary principals.
  • We’re strengthening our mentoring program through an alliance with the New York City Leadership Academy to provide the peer-to-peer support new principals need to lead learning communities.
  • We’re building new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to expand our reach and develop new inroads to research about the profession, marketplaces that serve the profession, and funds that support the profession.
  • We’re redoubling our efforts to support our state affiliates, our members, and the principalship as a whole with new resources and a dedicated team who will focus on membership and volunteer development and affiliate relations.

To support these vitally important projects to serve members, protect the principalship as the most important catalyst for whole school reform, strengthen the profession, and enhance the capacity of the NAESP/state affiliate network, the Delegate Assembly granted NAESP its first dues increase in five years to $235 for Active Members and $118 for Emeritus Members. The NAESP Board of Directors approved dues increases in all other special categories of membership (see chart here).

Since the previous dues increase, NAESP has invested in infrastructure to support business operations, instituted an intensive advocacy effort, improved member service, and strengthened staffing in key areas, all while dues and nondues revenue dramatically declined as a result of the economic recession. The Association was able to take these positive, forward steps because it also aggressively cut expenses, restructured the organization to free up resources, and took drastic measures to support several distressed state affiliates.

However, we are now entering a new era—one that requires our investment in a growth agenda. The wise individual who first said “you can’t cut your way to prosperity” is lost to history, but the truth of that statement is undeniable. NAESP is now in an ideal position to aggressively pursue a growth agenda—one that will better serve you and your fellow elementary and middle-level principals nationwide.

As always, please accept our sincere thanks for all you do for children and education, and please accept our partnership and friendship as together, we celebrate our milestones, set ever higher markers for service and support, and fulfill our mission on your behalf.

Note: This “ED’s Perspective” is excerpted from a letter signed by NAESP President Barbara Chester and Executive Director Gail Connelly and published in the Association’s Budget Narrative, 2011-2011 for the NAESP Delegate Assembly, which met at the April 2011 Annual Convention.

Copyright © 2011. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.

Deadline approaching for NAESP Pre-K-8 Principals Conference call for proposals.Submit a proposal by Dec. 8.