Story and photos provided by AASA
AASA partnered with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition on September 15 for an event involving over 30 superintendents from across the nation to discuss the importance of physical activity in schools and support the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative. The event was held at the White House, and was also attended by the President’s Council member athletes Grant Hill, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Collins, Allyson Felix, Caitlin Cahow, Misty Copeland, and Curtis Pride, in addition to several Student Ambassadors from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
The event highlighted the need for physical activity in schools to help students get the most out of their school day, both academically and physically, and required school system leaders in attendance to pledge to make physical activity and physical education a cornerstone of schooling. Let’s Move! Active Schools is designed to support schools’ efforts in helping students reach the program’s suggested one-hour of daily physical activity.
“We have been part of this campaign from the very beginning,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “Students have to come to school ready to learn. We recognize that physical fitness, health and nutrition are very important. I am pleased to see so many superintendents realize the importance of the Let’s Move! Campaign.”
One highlight of the day occurred when the students shared stories and personal perspectives about what physical fitness meant to them. An 8th grader from New Jersey talked about how her physical education teacher inspired her to live a healthier lifestyle and in doing so now leads a student health-focused group. A dyslexic 5th grader from Vermont spoke about how “brain breaks” during class helps keep him focused and stay alert during the school day.
“This event was an invaluable experience that brought together a variety of stakeholders working to ensure that our students are physically active and academically engaged,” said Lillian Maldonado French, superintendent, Mountain View School District, El Monte, Calif.
“This forum provided ideas for substantive exchange by leaders from local, state and national levels,” commented John Skretta, superintendent of the Norris School District in Firth, Neb., Skretta was one of five national leaders, and the only one in education, to receive the prestigious Leadership for Healthy Communities Award in 2013. “As educators, we need to make sure that everyone is behind the Let’s Move! Campaign and the impact it has on our students.”
“It’s exciting to see people from all over the country come together for a common theme,” said Jeff Smith, superintendent, Balsz Elementary School District, Phoenix, Ariz. “It’s encouraging to share innovative ideas about physical fitness so we can bring them back to our own districts.”
Core messages discussed throughout the day included:
- Healthy students are better learners;
- Schools can influence eating and physical activity behaviors;
- Healthy, successful students help build strong communities;
- All students deserve the opportunity to be healthy and successful.
“It’s a great opportunity to be around colleagues with a passion for the health of our students,” said Brock Womble, superintendent, Caswell County School System, Yanceyville, N.C. “This event signals a dedicated community committed to providing children physical fitness in schools.”
“It’s critical to raise awareness of healthy students and healthy lifestyles,” said Dallas Dance, superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore, Md.
Following the event, AASA Children’s Programs Department held a de-brief and reception to discuss how superintendents can share what they learned with their peers nationwide. Sharon Adams-Taylor, AASA associate executive director, emphasized the importance of the superintendents in helping to create healthy children and healthy lifestyles. “Your work is critically important because it affects not only the children in your schools but their families and the communities in which they live,” commented Adams-Taylor.