AUSL Innovates Speaker Series: A Fireside Chat with Arne Duncan

Last week, AUSL held its second AUSL Innovates Speaker Series event. Emerson Collective Managing Partner and Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and member of AUSL’s Board of Directors and Former Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller engaged in a fireside chat.  It was followed by a robust Q&A with AUSL team members, network leaders, supporters, and partners celebrating the publication of Secretary Duncan’s new book, How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education.

Member of AUSL’s Board of Directors and Former Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller and Emerson Collective Managing Partner and Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Dr. Donald Feinstein, Executive Director of the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

AUSL’s relationship with Mr. Duncan harkens back to his days as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where, alongside AUSL founder Mike Koldyke, he helped envision a whole school transformation model that lay the seeds for AUSL’s network of 31 schools.  Today, as we seek to grow that network, in Chicago and across the country, Secretary Duncan’s influence on our work can still be felt.

Hear from a cross-section of AUSL team members and leaders about takeaways from this event as AUSL re-connects with Mr. Duncan once again.

“As a Principal, I walked away from Mr. Duncan’s book talk feeling determined, inspired and empowered. Mr. Duncan confirmed that Morton is on the right track with our focus on student mastery of content standards and providing them with the tools they need to overcome the trauma in their lives. I left Mr. Duncan’s book talk feeling extremely proud of my staff for the professionalism, intellect and resilience they exhibit everyday. As Mr. Duncan said, our communities need the best talent and I have the best and the brightest at Morton.”

– Dr. Peggie Burnett-Wise

Demetrius Heard is a music teacher at Fuller School of Excellence. He is a proud alumni of the AUSL Chicago Teacher Residency Program, where he had the privilege of learning what it takes to be a dynamic teacher for students who need it the most.  He has also served as an ILT member and continues to be a teacher leader and peer coach at Fuller, participating in AUSL’s Leadership Preparation Program.

“ I will always remember when he said that ‘data doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t tell the whole story’. At AUSL we use data to raise questions and to start an ongoing conversation about improvement and how to push our work to the next level. We always pair the data with the equally-important on-the-ground information shared by our school staff, because without that nuance and context, the data loses its value and impact. [Also, his] description of his current work with 18-24 year old males underscored the urgency of our work. He would not have to be focused on that population if schools and society as a whole had not failed those young men. It reminded me that the stakes are so high for us to do our best by our students every day.”

-Alexandra Usher

Aquabah Gonney, Principal at Lewis School of Excellence. Gonney is featured in the last chapter of Duncan’s book, How Schools Work.

“As a manager of Partnerships and Initiatives, I walked away with the imperative that every person has a role to play in changing education and creating high quality opportunities for all students. As former Secretary of State Duncan explained, our students deserve the best and we are the people who can be advocates for them. He reminded everyone that we  have to continue innovating and creating high quality opportunities for students to thrive both in and out of the classroom. He also reminded us that part of that is ensuring we have high quality teachers who are supported in their job who then can support their students.”

– Rebecca Hollis

Dr. Peggie Burnett-Wise is the Principal at Morton School of Excellence. 

As a teacher and teacher leader, and particularly an arts teacher, I appreciated Secretary Duncan acknowledging the need for a readdressing of how we educate the whole child; not just reading and math, but also performing arts and social emotionally.  He pointed out disparities that exist within our public education system as it pertains to equity and access to quality arts education and a quality education in general. I walked away hopeful because Mr. Duncan is still a powerful voice in public education, despite the current administration’s approaches, and the book is a testament to just how dedicated he is to ensuring equitable access to a world class education for America’s most disenfranchised students.

– Demetrius Heard

Alexandra Usher, Director of Performance Analysis & Support. Alexandra works to support our schools to excellence through the use of data analysis and data-driven strategy.

Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of the Surge Institute and member of AUSL’s Board of Directors.

Gary E. McCullough, Chairman, AUSL and Former President, CEO, and Board Member of Career Education Corporation. McCullough delivered the closing remarks.

Rebecca Hollis, Manager of Partnerships & Initiative and Education Pioneers Impact Fellow.  Rebecca works in Partnerships & Initiatives managing the Success Bound Program and the SGA/Scopes Social Work program in schools.

CJ Rodgers is Director of Advisory Services, based in Texas.  CJ has spent the last 14 years in service of students, families, and communities serving in multiple roles.  He has spent the last 7 years leading in AUSL schools with the sole purpose of providing a high quality education experience to all students that prepares them for college completion and a successful career.  

As a school leader, hearing Arne Duncan speak about what makes schools work, really resonated because just like him, I’m devoting my life to this work.  More importantly,  I’m also a product of what happens when schools, communities and leaders all work for the greater good of the individuals they serve.  I thank leaders like Arne Duncan and his mom, and personally Mrs. Murphy, Mr. Chisholm, Ms. Zakowski, Coach Montana, Ms. Julie, Mr. Anderson, for going above and beyond to ensure that all students are equipped with the educational and social capital to change not only their neighborhoods but ultimately the world.

– CJ Rodgers

“[When Mr. Duncan was asked what he would do different as Secretary of Education if he could go back], he responded by stating that while some people believed that he was changing too much in a short window, he would have driven harder to make even greater changes in public education for underserved students and schools. This response validated that in the work we are doing at AUSL and Jefferson County Public Schools [in Kentucky], we must continue to move with a sense of urgency.”

-Dr. Devon Horton

Dr. Angel L. Turner, Director of School Leadership at AUSL, oversees a portfolio of seven schools in the AUSL network.

“As a McNair Chicago Teacher Resident, there were two topics that primarily stuck out to me. The first being his comments on equity versus equality. What most people fail to realize, and which Mr. Duncan pointed out so well, is that giving all schools the same amount of funding does not make the education the students who attend those schools receive equal. The second was that while politicians are never “against” education, they almost never lay out an education plan. He spoke to the fact that education was never brought up during the last presidential debate. That to me is completely wrong. This country needs to know how its leaders view education and what their plans will be for the future of our educational system.”

– Hanna Klingler

Dr. Devon Horton is the Chief of Schools for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.

“As a DSL, I believe that all students should be afforded an equal and equitable education despite their backgrounds or socio-economic status. Mr. Duncan [echoed my beliefs when he] talked how equal does not mean that schools in more affluent communities should receive the same funding as schools in more impoverished communities – and how resources should be provided to those who are not given the same opportunities as others.

He also [shared] about his participation in his mom’s after-school program on the Southside of Chicago, [which] gave students “equitable” supports in education…to make up for what they were not receiving from their schools during the day. My husband and his friends were a part of this after-school program and they talk about how his mother, Sue Duncan, was instrumental in helping them to succeed. My work at AUSL aligns with [that of Sue Duncan then and] Mr. Duncan today because it allows me to continue to be a driving force in partnership with school leaders (i.e. Principals, AP’s and Coaches) to continue to build and support the instructional capacity of our teachers in order to produce strong academic outcomes for ALL students.”

– Dr. Angel L. Turner

Hanna Klingler is a Chicago Teacher Resident for 7th/8th grade ELA classroom at McNair School of Excellence.