U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten Delivers Keynote Speech at AFSA Convention

Principals, assistant principals and other school leaders must lead not only their schools, but their communities, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten emphasized in her speech at AFSA’s 16th Triennial Constitutional Convention.

“My power and energy did not come from my title,” she asserted, “it came from looking at the community that I served and cared most about.”

Marten told school leaders in attendance at the July gathering in Puerto Rico they were to be commended for their community leadership during the pandemic, as they were tasked to “find a path where there was no path.” She praised them for working with their community and opening “hearts and minds and got their community to understand and name what it cares most about.”

Discussing the burden placed on school leaders during the pandemic, Marten drew heavily from her own experiences as superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, working alongside the Administrators Association San Diego City Schools, AFSA Local 134

Marten emphasized, “You cannot take exquisite care of your communities without taking exquisite care of yourself,” touching upon the themes of AFSA’s Resolution 8 — School Leader Wellness Support.

Marten recalled her own strategies for navigating the pandemic as a school leader, relying on her moral compass and consistently seeking her “true north.” Finding your “true north,” as Marten described it, means “reconnecting to your why” and evaluating the reasons you continue to choose to serve your community as a school leader. Marten found that by remaining focused throughout the pandemic on her value as a leader of her community, she was able to find her strength even when doing so was incredibly difficult.

“I didn’t work for the district, I didn’t work for the board of education, I didn’t work for the superintendent, I worked for the community,” she said. “Remember who you work for.”

Marten also affirmed her commitment to supporting and working alongside school leaders across the nation in her role with the Department of Education. “I’m with you, [Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona] is with you and your organization. We are going to continue to lead with purpose and passion, because our students and our country needs us.”

Citing a “historic investment in students,” Marten highlighted some of the work the Department of Education has already done to support school leaders under the Biden administration, including guiding the introduction of the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021 in Congress and launching the National Partnership for Student Success.

Marten received a standing ovation from the school leaders in attendance and was thanked by AFSA President Emeritus Earnest Logan for her work supporting administrators.