Reforming the ASHA Presidency for Progress

Tracing through the history of ASHA’s questionable curriculum leadership for school speech-language pathology, it becomes clear the Board of Directors has the final authority to make corrections when it wants to.

“Key to reform is to create a different role for the president of ASHA. Deep historical uncertainty over the roles of the director and the president lingers. We must have leadership accountability. Someone must be clearly in charge of all business on behalf of the membership. The notion of mutual cooperation masks the authority issue. Kenneth Johnson did much as the strong executive leader but that role turned out to be inappropriate for the Association. The president must have full authority and responsibility so we know where the buck stops. All this is clear and central to reform.”

Strong Leadership

The relationship with the Chief Executive Officer must continue to evolve leaving behind fully the era of authoritative leadership by Kenneth Johnson. The President must not accept the role of “chief coordinator:”

“The President works in partnership with the Chief Executive Officer to achieve the mission of the Association and to optimize the relationship between the Board and staff.”

The president should function in the manner of the president of the National Education Association. The NEA president as described in its documents has strong authority to conduct business, including representing the Association in policy matters, preparing the agenda for governing bodies and appointing chairpersons and committee members.


The president must shed his or her agenda of idiosyncratic personal interests and address the concerns of all members. There must be a well articulated vision of how to move the Association forward philosophically, scientifically and operationally.

Who have we been and where are we going?

The president should deliver a yearly “state of the union” address at the national convention in a large ballroom where many members can come and ask questions. We should hear about the issues of the year, challenges and new directions the president has crystalized for us.


The president should serve for one or two three-year terms and be paid very well. The silly rotation of three presidents for one year stints should be abandoned to combat leadership by committee and second-guessing. The Board of Directors must be streamlined to support the president’s authority and range of activities. There should be a vice president to serve when necessary and a secretary who furiously tracks Association business. The president should manage ongoing business, making sure THINGS GET DONE!

Mission creep must be addressed to focus on the most important business. Now ASHA sprawls in so m any directions accountability requires a fortune-teller.


Members should be able to vote to recall the president.

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