Astein Osei - Shaping Education with Equity and Leadership

In educational leadership, Dr. Astein Osei is a steadfast advocate for equity and a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience. A husband and father, Osei, along with his wife Tia, has navigated a successful career in education and an equally successful 13-year marriage while raising two children, Brayden (11 years old) and Brycen (7 years old).

Osei’s journey in education commenced as a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Cretin-Derham Hall (CDH) High School in St. Paul. Over time, he ascended to various leadership roles in the Osseo Area School district, showcasing versatility as Assistant Principal, Division of Leadership, Teaching and Learning Principal on Special Assignment, Director of Educational Equity, and Assistant Superintendent.

His leadership footprint extends to the St. Paul Public School district, where he served as the Principal of Johnson Aerospace and Engineering High School. In a significant chapter of his career, Osei assumed the role of superintendent for St. Louis Park Public Schools, leaving an indelible mark over a six-year tenure.

Osei's leadership was pivotal in steering the District through substantial milestones, including the successful passage of a $100.9 million bond referendum in 2017 and a $136 million bond referendum in 2021. Under his guidance, the district embraced changes, such as a K-8 talent development model, strategic plans for racial equity transformation, and a notable start-end time adjustment for the 2020-21 school year.

Beyond the local spectrum, Osei's influence is felt at the state level. He contributed to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) legislative committee. He has served on the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) board, the Minnesota State High League board, and the Wallin Education Partners board. His recognition as the Region 9 Administrator of Excellence by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators in 2023 is a testament to his impact.

In addition to his educational roles, Osei's community involvement is extensive. From the Children First Executive Committee to the St. Louis Park Noon Rotary, St. Louis Park Human Rights Commission, Perspectives Board of Directors, and the KEYS Initiative, he consistently engages in initiatives that contribute to the betterment of his community.

We had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Osei.

Can you share with us your journey into the field of education?

I came into the field of education in a non-traditional manner. My undergraduate studies were in the areas of Journalism and Communications. I did an internship to go into the field of television production. During the spring semester of my senior year of college, a mentor of mine needed some support at a high school where he was working as a Dean of Students. They were having difficulties filling substitute teaching positions, and he asked if I would be willing to help. From the moment that I stepped foot into the classroom, I was instantly drawn to the energy of the students and began to substitute teach multiple days a week at the school. At the end of the school year, I was invited back to serve in the capacity of building substitute and I coached football and track and field. From there, I decided to return to school for education and spent 5 years as a health and physical education teacher before moving to an administrative position in another school district.

What inspired you to pursue a career in education?

Several things inspired me to go into the field of education. First and foremost, I firmly believe that nothing happens by chance or luck and that everything happens for a reason. I believe that God has ordered my steps and that the field of education for me is not a job but a vocation. It was not an accident that I was invited to substitute teach in the spring of 2002. I believe that God has a calling on my life, which is why I was so drawn to the students who were drawn to me during my substitute teaching experience.

As a K-12 student, I also recall having teachers and administrators of color. Growing up in Illinois in the 80s and 90s, there were teachers and administrators of color, and I have fond memories of their positive impact on my life. All these teachers held high expectations for me and saw brilliance I didn't see in myself. As a Black male, I want to create educational environments for all students, especially students of color, where there are high expectations for their academic performance, where they are loved, and have the opportunity to explore their gifts just as I was able to do as a student growing up in the suburbs of Chicago.

Lastly, I pursued a career in education because I believe that pre-k - 12 schooling, especially public schooling, is critical to the success of our democracy. If our great nation is going not only to survive but thrive, we will need everyone to be educated in a manner that gives them access to grade-level standards, allows them to understand who they are, and begins to learn about people who are different from them, and creates opportunities for critical thinking and dialogue. I want to contribute to a generation of Americans who can contribute to solving some of our countries and the world's toughest challenges.

How has your own educational experience influenced your professional philosophy?

I had a positive pre-k - 12 educational experience in schools that were diverse racially, culturally, and socio-economically. This, coupled with the adults in those environments having high expectations, giving me access to grade-level standards and seeing my brilliance positioned me well as a positive contributing member of society. It has also allowed me to engage in, sustain, and deepen critical conversations as an adult.

My experience as a student lets me know that the predictable and persistent gaps in student achievement that we see across this country don’t have to be there. My educational experience as a student informs my pursuit to create racial equity transformation in the schools and districts where I work. My experience motivates me. I reflect on my educational experiences as a Black male from a single-mother household who did not grow up “rich.” I am reminded that with the right environment, beliefs, and instructional strategies, every student can be successful regardless of the color of their skin, the engagement level of their caregivers, or the socio-economic level of the community they grow up in. I recognize that poverty, racism, and parent engagement play a role in a student's success, and I also believe that when educators create a racially and culturally relevant learning environment, it can mitigate the adverse childhood experiences that many students encounter.

Could you describe a pivotal moment in your early career that shaped your path?

When I entered this profession, I never intended to go into leadership/administration. Early in my career, a principal believed in me more than I believed in myself. This person encouraged me to pursue my principal and superintendent licenses and gave me leadership opportunities when my resume did not display the credentials to justify my leadership in those areas. This person's belief in me and support of my development shaped my path because I was put into positions where I had access to experiences and relationships that later turned into carueer opportunities. This experience also influences my responsibility to provide mentorship and opportunities to aspiring leaders and educators who might not see themselves as leaders but can positively impact the profession through leadership.

What challenges did you face as you advanced in your career in education?

As I advanced in my career, one challenge I faced was that as my responsibility and scope became larger, I never wanted to lose the “common touch.” This means that I did not want to be so far removed that I did not know what was happening in the lives of my colleagues. For example, if a custodian at one of our sites' spouses passed away. I wanted to know, and I wanted to engage that person and be there for them. Or if a teacher was diagnosed with cancer. I needed to know how I could help support them and their family. As my responsibilities increased, sometimes I would not know about these things until after the fact. I always felt that it was important for a leader to engage colleagues on a human and professional level.

Another challenge I continue to face in my career is eradicating racial predictability in student achievement. As a health and physical education teacher, I had more influence, direct control, or impact on student performance in my class. As I advanced in my career, while I felt that I had more influence on the systems and structures of the school or organization, I did not feel the same level of influence on being able to impact a student’s grades/experience directly.

How have your roles before becoming a superintendent prepared you for this position?

Every role I had was important for me to become a superintendent. After serving for 6+ years, I do not believe anything can truly “prepare” you for the role. For the role of superintendent, I believe the best preparation is experiencing the job itself. Every school district, community, and staff is unique. As a superintendent, you have to intimately understand every aspect of the community you serve to influence and facilitate the district's strategic priorities. My prior roles gave me an understanding of important technical aspects of school leadership, but my best teacher was making a mistake and learning from it. Whether it be poor timing of communication with families or the pace at which we implemented priority work, those experiences helped me better understand the community I was serving and the needs and expectations of that community. If I had to pick one role, it would be assistant superintendent. Working close to the superintendent in that role gave me insight into strategy, process, and implementation of strategic priority work that I had never experienced in other positions. As an assistant superintendent, I began to see and understand the importance of the superintendent/school board relationship. Having an effective school board/superintendent relationship modeled for me was helpful. What key lessons did you learn in your early years as an educator?

What I learned early on was that relationships in this profession are critical. Most importantly, to influence students, I must have strong, positive, trusting relationships with them. The old saying, “Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” is so true. This doesn’t just stop with students; this is important for the adults working in educational settings and the communities I have served.

Another key lesson I learned is the importance of being prepared. Trying to get up in front of a classroom of students and “wing it” generally does not work out well and makes for a long class period. As a teacher, principal, or superintendent, being prepared and planful has allowed me to create engaging and productive spaces for youth and adult learners in the positions I have held over the years.

Who were your mentors or role models in the education sector, and how did they influence you?

I have had many people invest in me over the years and help me become the leader I am today. People like Ms. Kelli Parpart, Dr. Kate Maguire, Dr. Israel Moses, Mr. Willie Jett, Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, Dr. Melissa Krull, Mr. Andy Bischoff, Dr. Steve Unowsky, Mr. John Turner, Dr. Scott Thielman, Dr. Deb Hinton and others. All of these people influenced me through their leadership. It was not necessarily the words or lessons they shared with me but how they led and engaged students, staff, and the community. I had an opportunity to work more closely with some of them than others, but I watched all of them over the years, and they all invested in me and the leader I am today.

Can you discuss a significant achievement in your career before becoming a superintendent?

I would not classify it as a significant achievement, but before becoming a superintendent, I presented at national and state-level conferences. Every time I got these opportunities, I would be surprised, nervous, and excited simultaneously. I would be surprised because I wonder who is interested in what I say. I would be nervous because imposter syndrome is real, and I wanted what I was sharing to be credible and useful for the participants. I would be excited because it was an opportunity to influence adults in the pre-k-12 educational space. With each of these opportunities, I would leave the experience feeling like I gained more from it than the participants because of the rich dialogue and engagement.

How do you think the education profession has evolved since you started?

Since I started in 2002, the profession has evolved. A lot of the evolution that comes to mind is technology-related. Increased device and internet access has allowed for technology-enriched learning environments and collaboration in ways we have never seen before. The pandemic taught us that students can thrive in learning environments beyond just traditional schooling. So you see virtual schools popping up everywhere and some school districts with creative hybrid scheduling options for students and families. We have seen the evolution of how people view standardized testing and have begun to broaden their formerly narrow beliefs about what achievement looks like. You are seeing more focus on the “whole child” . Along with that, mental health has become something that educators are focused on, which is a shift from the “buck up” mentality that was pervasive in schools previously. School safety and facility enhancements to make schools more secure have evolved, and since the murder of George Floyd, more meaningful equity work appears to occur within schools and districts across the state.

What are your core values as a superintendent?

As a superintendent, the following core values have been foundational for me.

Collective Responsibility - As educators, we all must work together to support the healthy development of our learners. I often lean into the South African term of Ubuntu, “I am because we are,” in my leadership because collectivism is critical to improving student educational outcomes. I know often in films about educators (Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, The Great Debaters, etc.) that a hero overcomes all odds to help a student or a group of students. Still, that type of individualism does not lead to sustained system change and generally when the hero is no longer present the positive impact disappears with the hero Advocacy for Equity - As educators, we are responsible for developing citizens who will help create an anti-racist democracy. With that being the case, I know that we have to create learning environments that are welcoming and inclusive for all students regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, etc. Creating that environment is necessary to ensure that all students have access to grade-level standards, understand who they are racially and culturally, work towards proficiency in other races and cultures, and have an opportunity to develop a socio-political consciousness. Simply put, students have the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and get practice at identifying problems and coming up with solutions for those problems.

Trust is Essential - to successfully lead school districts, trust is essential to developing effective relationships with students, staff, families, and the community. I have leaned heavily on the Thin Book of Trust as a resource in my leadership. I am always assessing the sincerity, reliability, competence, and care in my professional relationships.

High Expectations - Every learner I come in contact with possesses gifts and talents, and it is my responsibility as an educator to nurture the gifts and talents they have been blessed with. To do that, I have to have high expectations for those learners and not provide them with remedial educational experiences because of the mental models I may hold about their ability to learn. Everyone has the capacity and responsibility to foster the growth and brilliance of others.

How do you approach decision-making?

I approach decision-making in a shared/collaborative manner as much as possible. I try not to make decisions based on my understanding and always attempt to be inclusive of multiple perspectives. I also always ensure that my decisions align with the strategic direction of the organization I am leading. I lean into the West African idea of Sankofa, understanding that our past informs our future. So, I am mindful of how historical events/decisions impact the decision that needs to be made. Understanding the historical aspect also helps to mitigate making the same mistake over and over again. There have been times when I have had to make tough decisions without as much perspective as I would like because of the time-sensitive nature of the decision. For example, weather-related school closure decisions. I bring a team together to plan for these types of emergency events, but there have been times when quick decisions have had to be made without as much input as I would like.

Can you describe a recent initiative you've implemented that was a success?

There are several, but one that stands out is the 2022 special election to improve our physical facilities in the school district. This was significant because, in 2017, we went out for the largest bond in school district history at 100.9 million dollars. Then, coming back a few years later and asking for another $136 million was risky, given the political climate coming out of the pandemic.

We were looking to continue the projects we started in 2017 to:

● enhance the daily lived experience of students;
● stabilize costs, conserve energy,
● improve safety and security.

While we had made great strides in these areas through facility improvements, the pandemic profoundly impacted our ability to complete all of the projects connected to the 2017 bond referendum. Our construction management team did a great job of leveraging the resources provided, and due to increased labor costs and supply and materials shortages, there were several projects we could not complete as a part of the 2017 bond referendum. With the 2017 bond dollars, we substantially improved our elementary and middle schools' physical facilities. However, there was still more work to be done to ensure that our facilities enhance the daily lived experience of students.

August 9, 2022, as a part of a special election, the voters in the community approved the renewal and expansion of our Capital Project Levy for Technology by $500,000 and approved the $136 million bond referendum. Getting these two questions approved was a huge undertaking and will positively impact the district for years, as the bulk of those dollars are being used to improve the high school campus.

How do you foster a positive and inclusive culture in your schools?

Fostering a positive and inclusive culture requires a collective effort and cannot just be the work of a few people. Specifically, it requires an entire school community to consistently commit themselves to engaging with one another in a way that honors the dignity and humanity of each member of our community. At the core of honoring each other's dignity and humanity is a restorative mindset - a way of being that can lead us to improved morale and experience.

To create a restorative culture, which I believe leads to a positive and inclusive culture, I have tried to foster environments that focus on the following areas:

● Communication that centers everyone’s humanity and dignity
○ Acknowledging and interrupting harmful communication and communication patterns that keep districts from actualizing their mission and strategic priorities

● Engagement with restorative practices
○ A commitment to building systems/structures for all staff/students to continue to practice, learn, and reflect as they grow in their restorative practices development

● Youth, staff, and community voice
○ The inclusion of stakeholder voice and frequent feedback loops for site/department leaders and leadership teams.

Restorative practices allow us to build community, learn, grow, and celebrate each other's brilliance. Deepening a restorative culture can lead to a positive and inclusive school community. Like in any organization, currently, in SLP, the work is too fast for some and not fast enough for others. At the rapid pace that educators are forced to move, it is important that we listen deeply to each other's perspectives and engage in honest, compassionate dialogue about ways to do our work together effectively.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of modern education?

There are so many important aspects of modern education. Educators play a critical role in ensuring our nation’s students have the knowledge and skills required to be effective members of a democracy while also possessing the ability to adapt as our economy and jobs continue to transform.

Public education is a key factor in the success of our democracy. I have often said that public education can be a pathway to developing an antiracist democracy through intentionally using culturally relevant instruction.

In a MinnPost article, Dr. Deb Hinton, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, shared, “It is often the case that we take for granted what we have in abundance. This may be true of our excellent public schools in Minnesota. In so many ways, our public schools are the envy of the entire nation, woven into the fabric of our state. We are so used to them that it’s easy to forget all they contribute to our lives…”

Dr. Hinton’s words resonate with me, and I certainly believe that we have a lot to be proud of in the state of Minnesota as it relates to education. I also cannot look away from the fact that we still have work to do as public school educators to ensure that every child has access to an education that celebrates their brilliance as learners in ways that prepare them to contribute to creating an antiracist democracy. I believe the most important aspect of modern education is school districts across this nation developing the ability to create learning environments where students have access to grade-level standards, where they have the opportunity to learn about themselves racially and culturally and work towards proficiency in other races and cultures, and where they have the opportunity to develop a socio-political consciousness, having the ability to be critical thinkers (see a problem and develop creative solutions for that problem).

How do you stay informed and current in the ever-evolving field of education?

I stay current on the field through literature from professional organizations, attending conferences, reading the news, and interacting with people in the field.

What role do you believe technology plays in education today?

Increased device and internet access has allowed for technology-enriched learning environments and collaboration in ways we have never seen before for both students and educators. Technology will continue to play a critical role in student engagement, efficiency, pace, and most importantly, it will allow educators to get better at personalizing learning experiences for students in ways we haven't even imagined yet. The more educators can personalize learning and make it relevant to students, the greater the engagement and excitement for learning will be from the students. Technological tools are a pathway/strategy to create personalized learning environments.

Can you share an example of how you've adapted to unexpected challenges or changes?

Throughout my 22 years as an educator, challenges and change have been a constant, especially as I have been working to create equitable learning environments in the classrooms, schools, and districts where I have had the opportunity to work. Regardless, if I was in a conservative school or district or district believing itself to be liberal and progressive, challenges, change, and resistance have been present.

In my most recent experience as a superintendent, challenges, and resistance showed up when we moved to a talent development model for K-8 students, eliminated our racially predictable remedial intervention program, provided professional development for staff in the area of culturally relevant instruction, enhanced our teacher development and evaluation rubric to reflect the culturally relevant instructional practices we expected, and when we developed a strategic plan for racial equity transformation.

Challenges and resistance became more forceful when we attempted to close the gap between what we said we believed and our actions, especially if it required the educators in the organization to change their practice or experience discomfort.

● Talent Development - Three years ago, we moved from a K-8 gifted and talented program to a talent development model that allowed all students in grades K-8 to access academic experiences that supported their academic development and deepened their brilliance. We wanted to make sure all students had the opportunity to be challenged, expand their perspectives and skills, and grow as learners and critical thinkers. In the past, similar to other districts, our model only supported enrichment for students who met socially constructed targets and were labeled “gifted.” This was a heavy undertaking because our talent development model provided every K-5 student with a robust elementary enrichment program that provided 120 minutes a week of gifted and talented learning through STEAM (Science, Technology, Education and Human Development, the Arts, and Math) programming.

This was met with resistance from those who believed that only some students deserved access to this type of instruction due to their “giftedness.” The created model was developed with an anti-racist belief that all students benefit from an education that provides strengths-based, culturally relevant enrichment rather than one that intervenes based on deficits and provides remediation.

In any challenging situation I experience, I always try to get to the root cause/antecedent of the challenge. If I can understand the root cause of resistance, I can better collaborate to find a compromise. I enter challenging situations assuming positive intent and try not to let my feelings cloud my judgment. While the compromise I work towards might alter the path we take or the pace of implementation, I work to keep the focus on achieving the outcome. The challenge with most things implemented in educational settings is that the work is too slow for the students and families of color and too fast for some adults in the organization.

How do you envision the future of education?

The future of education is learner-centered. With increased learning technologies and more districts investing in creating technology-enriched learning environments, instruction is becoming more and more individualized to meet each learner's needs. Traditional schooling models shifting and school districts taking lessons from the pandemic to create more flexibility in the school day. I see a continual movement away from such a significant focus on standards-based assessments. I see continued development of other ways to define and assess student learning goals. Standard-based assessment will not likely or should completely go away, but it will be one of several key indicators to determine a student's and school's success. There will alsobe a greater investment in educator professional development to support these changes that will need to occur.

What steps are you taking to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century?

The key step that I have taken in my work is to create educational environments that create opportunities for students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. More than ever, our nation requires people who can change the trajectory of its challenges and position this country to thrive for hundreds of years to come. To do this, students must be innovative, globally minded, critical thinkers, and courageous. I am preparing students for the 21st century by creating environments where they can develop their socio-political consciousness. By creating environments where they can be risk-takers, become globally minded, and are challenged academically and forced to think critically about the learning they are experiencing.

How do you plan to address equity and diversity in schools?

I plan to address equity and diversity in schools by leveraging what I have learned through my research and experience over the years and sharing it with other educators. I plan on sharing a framework that will include the following concepts. These concepts emerged as themes in my research of educators' beliefs and instructional strategies to promote achievement for students of color.


● Brilliance of self and others
● High expectations and developing student agency
● Collective responsibility
● Persistent effort and developing risk-takers
● Racial consciousness and cultural competence
● Advocacy for equity through relationships
● Student-centered facilitation of learning

What role do you see for community partnerships in the future of education?

Community partnerships have been and will continue to be an important aspect of the success of schools in this country. While schools are the heartbeat of any community, I believe that community partnerships are the veins that pump blood to the heart, allowing it to beat. The success of a community and school district go hand in hand; in successful communities, you will see a lot of engagement from community partners. We will continue seeing community partners engage schools and create workforce pathways in hard-to-fill areas. This will continue to be an important role for community partners as we progress.

How do you plan to integrate environmental sustainability into education?

When you create culturally relevant learning environments, concepts like environmental sustainability are easier to bring to life and make relevant for students. As students strengthen their socio-political consciousness, the issues we face as a country become more visible to them. Not only are the issues visible, but students want to take action to change what is happening. I have seen environmental sustainability lessons taught in an interdisciplinary manner. I have observed science and social studies teachers working together on climate issues and have seen science classes do projects that directly impact our school community. Things like idling in the parent pick-up line at the school, using plasticware in our cafeterias, and water and energy consumption. In these examples, students provided suggestions and a pathway forward for our school district to implement a more sustainable practice. This is best learned through applying real-life, relevant issues that affect students daily.

What innovative educational practices are you excited about exploring?

I am excited to continue to explore ideas to customize the learning for each student according to their unique skills, abilities, and interests in a culturally relevant manner. Technology provides many opportunities for this type of personalized learning to occur and to better nurture a student's brilliance.

How do you support the professional development of teachers and staff?

Professional development is a continuous process of individual and collective examination of practice. The knowledge/answer is generally in the room. It is not always about giving educators new information but creating space for reflection and sharing of learning and experience. I create professional learning experiences that align with adult learning theory and create space for staff to deepen and sustain the student-centered work they lead in their learning spaces. Generally, the professional development I am responsible for organizing allows for community building, reflection, new learning, and collaboration. Depending on the time that we have available, I create space for cross-district vertical and horizontal collaborationand choice learning for educators.

What is your approach to maintaining mental health and well-being in schools?

The education profession is gratifying and just as taxing mentally and emotionally for students and staff. Everyone finds different ways to cope with and manage their mental health needs, some approaches being healthy and others harmful. A strategy that has been helpful for me is connected to my intention around gratitude. As I have worked to spend more time on the things that I am grateful for, this time has allowed me to find some balance with the other stressful things that occupy my thinking. This focus on gratitude is foundational in maintaining mental health and well-being in schools. My focus on gratitude during my leadership led to increased recognition of students and staff in schools. It led to the creation of professional development spaces designed to center the humanity and dignity of self and others, and increased empathy in our school settings. Additionally, the focus on gratitude impacted individuals' mental health and well-being and the well-being and mental health of our school community because of a positive/asset based frame as opposed to a negative/deficit frame.

How do you envision incorporating global perspectives into local education?

Creating culturally relevant learning environments that incorporate a global perspective makes it easier to bring to life and makes it relevant for students. As students work to understand who they are racially and culturally and work towards proficiency in other races and cultures, it provides a window to the world as our schools are made up of students from across the globe. Additionally, technology has helped with this, and once impossible things are now at our students' fingertips. I remember once our students doing an energy conservation project, and they were charged with figuring out how to use solar to support people in the eastern region of Kenya. With virtual reality, they could walk through the villages to get a sense of the need and better design a solar solution to address that need. When done in a culturally relevant way, a global perspective should be shared through literature, social studies, arts, music, math, science, and any subject that people around the world have contributed. Doing it this way shows the brilliance of people worldwide, as opposed to only incorporating a global perspective through a deficit lens.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a superintendent?

There have been a lot of things that I am proud of during my time as superintendent. Whether it be the passing of multiple bond referendums, the development of a strategic plan for racial equity transformation, changing start times, implementing a new literacy development program, creating a talent development program, evolving the teacher development and evaluation rubric, or interrupting remedial math and reading tracks, I believe all of those things were only possible because of effective relationships and the spirit of Ubuntu. The most rewarding aspect of being a superintendent is having the opportunity to engage, sustain, and deepen relationships with stakeholders across the school system. Some of my best memories involve positive and challenging dialogue with students, staff, and caregivers. Many superintendents have nightmares about leading during the pandemic. While it was the most challenging thing I had ever experienced, I was grateful that the pandemic brought us together and forced us to connect and collaborate in ways we had never done before. Any organization is only as strong or good as the people that make up that organization. The most rewarding aspect of the superintendency is being in a relationship with a diverse group of stakeholders.

How do you balance the demands of your profession with personal time?

This is something that I have not been good with, and I would say is a tough lesson that I have had to learn over the years. As a husband and father of two children under the age of 12, when I was in the superintendency, I did not do a good job balancing or prioritizing the things in my life that were most important. I prioritized the job over everything else to the detriment of my marriage and quality time with my children. As I progress in my professional pursuits, I will never repeat this mistake. My wife would often tell me that I invest so much time doing things for people who might grieve for a day if I were to die tomorrow, and the people who I am neglecting (my family) will grieve for the rest of their lives. While I always believed her, I could not get out of my way because I had created a “monster” and expectations for others on the type of access that they had to me 24/7. I recently had an experience where my wife's wisdom played out, and everyone who constantly consumed my time disappeared when they could no longer benefit from their relationship with me. And my family was there to pick up the pieces and walk side by side with me every step of the journey.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to become a superintendent?

Be clear about your WHY. If you do not have a focused direction or conviction about student learning, this job will eat you alive. Also, your mental health and overall well-being matters. As a superintendent, you are often forced to focus on everyone else (students, teachers, staff, parents, and community), and there is rarely any concern for how you are doing. There is an unspoken expectation that you do not get to be tired, stressed, mentally unhealthy, or depressed. Do not fall into this unrealistic and unsustainable trap. Make time for yourself, find balance, disconnect, and, most importantly, find healthy outlets to manage and mitigate the impact of the stressors of the job. Also, you have to encourage yourself! In this role, you often hear from people when something goes wrong or they are upset. Trust in your leadership and spend time in reflection, creating opportunities to speak positively, with joy and love, into your life.

Is there a specific area in education you are particularly passionate about?

Yes, my dissertation focused on teacher beliefs and instructional strategies promoting achievement for students of color. The research aimed to identify the beliefs and instructional strategies that lead to traditionally marginalized populations of students in grades 2-5 demonstrating growth on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. The study affirmed that teacher beliefs and instructional practices matter when attempting to create academic growth for traditionally marginalized groups of students. During the study, several themes surfaced regarding the importance of educator beliefs and instructional practices.

How do you see your role evolving in the next five years?

I see myself starting a business, taking all of my learning over the past 20+ years as an educator, and sharing that with others in ways that support their work in their districts and schools. I see myself writing a book about the findings from my research and continuing to contribute positively to the field of education.

Most importantly, as I think about my role as a human being, I prioritize my relationship with God and let my words and actions reflect the love, grace, and mercy that God has shown me over the years. I see myself maintaining the balance that I have been able to create over the past few months and prioritizing what matters most, which is my family. I plan to continue to work towards the creation of an anti-racist democracy.

We thank Astein Osei for taking the time to share his thoughts with us.
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