President’s Perspective: Goodbye and Hello
By Rob Monson, NAESP President
When you’ve been an educator for any length of time, you accumulate memorable career milestones. Like most principals, two stand out for me—my first day in a classroom, battling knocking knees and a pounding heart, and my first day as a principal, one second feeling an adrenalin rush of excitement and the next second feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities. Now, I’m adding another milestone to my career—my last day as NAESP President, which will occur on June 30. It’s been a heckuva ride!
A few things stand out as I reflect on one of the most rewarding, challenging, and affirming times of my 20-year career as an educator.
First and most important, I had the great privilege of representing you and your 60,000-plus colleagues in settings I never could have imagined a few years ago—from the Rose Garden of the White House to the television studios of Lifetime TV’s “The Balancing Act” to meetings with the Secretary of Education and members of Congress to interviews with reporters from national media. In all of those instances, I did my utmost to remain true to the trust you placed in me to represent your views, amplify your voice, champion your interests, and articulate the “Power of the Principal” to a wide and varied audience.
I also had the honor to work with an incredibly dedicated Board of Directors—colleagues who routinely made personal and professional sacrifices to serve our wonderful profession, national Association, and network of state affiliates. The 13 individuals with whom I served not only brought their “A game” to board meetings, but they also went the extra mile to support NAESP on too many occasions and in too many ways to count. Their commitment and sense of duty made my job a whole lot easier.
And I could not have asked for more steadfast, gutsy, and visionary leadership from NAESP. Gail Connelly and the staff she assembled have steered the Association through the toughest economic storm in recent times, keeping us upright, on course, and pointed in the right direction. Many other associations were not so fortunate and have shut their doors forever. We have some ground to regain, especially in growing membership, but there’s no question that NAESP is stronger today than it was a year ago because of Gail’s nimble leadership.
It was a year of accomplishments. For the first time in the Association’s 90 year-plus history, we established a $1 million protected reserve fund, which will grow to $4 million over the next five years, thus securing NAESP’s financial well-being. That’s a legacy I’m proud to have been part of.
We also sharpened our focus on three overarching priorities: serving early career principals, developing and sustaining high-touch membership strategies, and adopting and leveraging new technology to find, engage, and keep members. To accomplish these important goals, we are renewing our efforts to work closely with all state affiliates to serve greater numbers of principals and strengthen the profession as a whole.
On that note, I was fortunate to be part of one of the Association’s most significant initiatives in recent years—an extensive research project to develop guidelines for principal evaluation, which NAESP co-developed with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). For the better part of the year, I served as co-chair of the NAESP/NASSP Principal Evaluation Committee, a task force of 30 principals and researchers from the American Institutes for Research and Johns Hopkins University. NAESP and NASSP will release the outcome of this effort, Guidelines for Principal Evaluation, this summer. This body of work is a powerful first step in creating meaningful evaluation processes that can help principals improve the schools they lead.
As I say goodbye as NAESP President, I’m pleased to say hello as the new Executive Director of the School Administrators of South Dakota (SASD), which serves elementary and secondary principals, superintendents, school business officials, special education administrators, and the South Dakota ASCD. I’ll begin my new position on July 1, the day after I hand the NAESP gavel to my friend and colleague, Mark Terry, who takes over as President. As I open this new chapter in my career, I’m especially thankful to have the opportunity to stay engaged and involved with NAESP and to continue serving the profession I love.
Thank you and best wishes—Rob