A Short History of Reaching Peak Performance

By Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director

Address to the membership at AASB 64th Annual Conference, November 12, 2017

Good Afternoon.

I want to speak with today about my vision for your Association. And to give appropriate attribution this information is partially from our former Executive Director, the late Carl Rose.

Every organization must continually examine itself in order to ensure it is following best practices. To do less is to fail. Put another way, we cannot afford to rest on our accomplishments.

This is a visual representation of continuous improvement.


Organizations must continually be aware of its surroundings. Among these are challenges, threats, successes, customer satisfaction, opportunities, fiscal transparency, personnel, technology, and a myriad of other topics. We cannot ever stop examining ourselves.


Simply being aware is not enough. An organization must consider each of these elements that make up our surroundings. We need to assess their effect on the organization. Will they enhance our mission – or will they negate what we’re trying to accomplish?


An organization then must plan for “next steps.” Taking those next steps without a deliberate plan is a recipe for disaster. Good planning is the key to success.


And it follows that a good plan must be executed through action. Steven Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” defines that as “getting the right people on the bus in the right seats.”


Once our plan has been executed through appropriate action we must reflect on how well we did.

  • Is it within our mission?
  • Did it accomplish what we intended?
  • Are there unintended consequences?


It is never wrong to do the wrong thing. However it is wrong when we don’t correct a wrong thing. So we need to ensure that we stop doing wrong things and begin doing the right things – and that comes through awareness of our surroundings.

So this continuous improvement is truly continuous – it is a continual cycle.

So quickly let’s look at this another way. All organizations go through cycles of Dependence, Independence, Interdependence and finally arriving at Peak Performance. However an organization at Peak Performance must go through this awareness once again – or they begin a downward spiral.

It’s okay for an organization to briefly rest on its success but the key word is “briefly”. Once you get comfortable in your success you start downward on the Death Cycle. In that awareness, however, the organization once it realizes it is getting comfortable moves toward the next goal and continues an upward trajectory.

So what does all this have to do with AASB? In looking at the history of this organization we have followed this model and have consistently remained on an upward trend.

Look at our trending line.


The first Long Range Plan or as we refer to it, “Pathways”. The BOD has reviewed it every three years and in fact will going through that process once again this summer.


  • Policy services developed and now 51 of Alaska’s school districts utilize AASB’s model policy.
  • Board Development became central to our mission and we constantly have trainers providing in-district workshops as well as two academies, two leadership sessions, charter school training, maintenance conference, executive admin training every year.
  • We successfully avoided binding arbitration although the compromise was right-to-strike.


  • The BOD determined AASB would no longer fight with NEA but instead would become “Child Advocates” although we didn’t know how that would happen.
  • We were successful in the passage of HB465, Tenure Reform. Our champion was Representative Ivan Ivan (ask him to stand).
  • We established the Legal Assistance Fund.
  • However we discontinued Labor Relations once we reached the reflection phase.


  • Board Standards were established – the first in the nation to included “Conduct and Ethics “ and this element has been adopted by most other states after a presentation at the NSBA conference.
  • Teacher and Administrator standards developed as our commitment to HB 465.


  • AASB was able to secure passage of SB36, Quality Schools Initiative.


  • Alaska ICE established in response to becoming “Advocates for Alaska’s Youth”.
  • QS2 model established
  • CEAAC created.
  • Kasayulie vs. State of Alaska filed.


  • The phrase “focused on student achievement” added to AASB’s mission statement.


  • A new push for board standards – adopted by nearly every school district. it is included in AASB’s model policy.
  • Revised teacher & administrator standards.
  • Teacher evaluations included in statute.


  • AASB began talks about the necessity of Innovation.
  • Early childhood education was included to our K-12 focus.
  • Reading proficiency by 3rd grade research became widely available and part of our emphasis.

So are we on a plateau or are we on a downward spiral? I submit to you that we are again on an upward trend, reinventing ourselves with what I call. “AASB’s New Professionalism.”

What does this “New Professionalism look like?

  • AASB’s BOD and staff are looking at every aspect of the organization to ensure we are still relevant and meeting the needs of the membership.
  • Moving away from paper toward digital publishing;
  • Creating additional transparency in fiscal operations;
  • Offering new value in providing model policy with additional services ;
  • We have internally restructured staff to make better use of each individual’s talents;
  • We’ve “leaned down” the staff to ensure we can live within our budget;
  • The AASB team is working with several districts in language preservation projects through the creation of digital books;
  • Commentary has been recreated to become the leading educational publication in the state with over 1200 subscribers ;
  • Software is in place to track publication readership habits so we can meet their needs;
  • New practices have been introduced in the Business Office to create money and time saving efficiencies
  • Stepped up advocacy efforts and are becoming proactive in setting the agenda;
  • Have greater expertise in grant writing and have assisted numerous districts in their efforts;
  • A consistent plan of reviewing and improving governance training curricula continues;
  • SCCS is digitizing materials, adding cultural pieces, and utilizing an improved data dashboard to better help districts utilize their data;
  • Utilizing the new AASB logo to enhance the reputation of AASB and the education community;
  • AASB is the “go-to” source for the membership. Over the last four months staff has fielded 108 calls for assistance or advice on a variety of topics and issues.
  • We are in the process of going online for processes such as awards, nominations, salary surveys and others to reduce staff time for both AASB as well as school districts;
  • CDL is providing technical director services for several school districts;

With a state budget in flux, every district in the room still has to figure out how to provide an excellent education for every student every day.

Remember that now famous quote from our late Executive Director, Carl Rose, “There is great opportunity in confusion, as long as you’re not the one confused!”

The current environment is supportive of new approaches and innovations like never before. A lot of ideas from education stakeholders across the state have been discussed at Alaska’s Education Challenge, and now a period of reflection and adjustment is upon us.

To reach Peak Performance we must all, to some degree, move from being dependent to being interdependent in order to ultimately enable our students to achieve their dreams. As school districts tasked with carrying out our mission we must work together to get there. And we must not become confused in our mission.

Every district in the room is making this journey maximizing local control by doing it your way. Think about the programs occurring across our state:

  • Relevant Instruction;
  • Personalized learning;
  • A resurgence of cultural identity
  • Language preservation;
  • Growing our own teachers;
  • Using data to improve instruction;
  • An emphasis on professional development;
  • Use of technology to supplement instruction;
  • Shared services between districts;
  • More public school choices than ever before;
  • Increased rigor in curricular content.

This is only a partial list – you are making a difference in the lives of your students. And you’re not confused!

In closing let me say without any reservations – The Association of Alaska School Boards will continue on this upward trend and to be your membership organization dedicated to providing services that move your district forward as you serve students.

Thank you.

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