An Interview with Dr. Astein Osei – Insights into Educational Leadership

In this exclusive interview, Dr. Astein Osei shares his journey from an aspiring journalist to a distinguished educational leader.

Initially aiming for a career in television production, Dr. Osei’s path took a transformative turn when a mentor invited him to substitute teach. This pivotal experience ignited a passion for education, leading him to dedicate his career to fostering equity, inclusion, and excellence in education.

Over the years, Dr. Astein Osei has held various leadership roles, including serving as the superintendent of St. Louis Park Public Schools, where he spearheaded numerous initiatives to improve educational outcomes and create inclusive learning environments.

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

I entered education in a non-traditional way. My undergraduate studies were in Journalism and Communications, and I interned at Fox Sports, intending to enter television production. During my senior year, a mentor asked me to substitute teach at a high school. From my first day in the classroom, I was drawn to the students’ energy. I continued substitute teaching and coaching, eventually deciding to return to school for education. Before moving into administration, I spent five years as a health and physical education teacher.

What inspired you to pursue a career in education?

Everything happens for a reason, and my path to education was divinely guided. Growing up, I had teachers and administrators of color who held high expectations for me and saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself. I wanted to create similar educational environments for all students, especially students of color, where they are loved and can explore their gifts.

How has your own educational experience influenced your professional philosophy?

My positive educational experiences in diverse schools shaped my belief in high expectations and access to grade-level standards for all students. These experiences motivate me to create racial equity transformation in the schools I work in. With the right environment, beliefs, and instructional strategies, every student can succeed regardless of background.

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

Early in my career, a principal believed in me more than I believed in myself and encouraged me to pursue leadership roles. This support led to opportunities that shaped my path and taught me the importance of providing mentorship and opportunities to aspiring leaders.

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

One challenge was maintaining the “common touch” as my responsibilities grew. I wanted to stay connected to my colleagues’ lives and support them on a personal level. Another challenge was addressing racial predictability in student achievement. As I moved into higher roles, I had less direct influence on individual students but more on systems and structures.

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

Each role I held was foundational for becoming a superintendent. Working closely with superintendents as an assistant superintendent gave me insights into strategy, process, and the importance of the superintendent/school board relationship. Experience taught me valuable lessons, and making mistakes helped me better understand the community’s needs and expectations.

What key lessons did you learn in your early years as an educator?

Relationships are critical in this profession. To influence students, you need strong, positive, trusting relationships. Also, being prepared is crucial. Whether teaching, leading a school, or serving as superintendent, preparation allows for creating engaging and productive learning environments.

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

Many people have invested in me and influenced me through their leadership. Their examples taught me the importance of engagement with students, staff, and the community. Observing and working closely with them helped shape the leader I am today.

What are your core values as a superintendent?

My core values include collective responsibility, advocacy for equity, trust, and high expectations. I believe in working together to support student development, create inclusive environments, build confidence in professional relationships, and nurture the gifts and talents of all learners.

How do you approach decision-making?

I make decisions collaboratively, considering multiple perspectives and ensuring alignment with the organization’s strategic direction. Understanding the historical context of decisions helps me avoid repeating past mistakes. I also make decisions with available input in urgent situations, always focusing on achieving the desired outcome.

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

One significant initiative was the 2022 special election to improve our physical facilities. Despite the political climate, we secured $136 million for facility enhancements, which will positively impact the district for years.

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

Fostering a positive and inclusive culture requires a collective effort. I focus on communication that honors everyone’s humanity and restorative practices and includes stakeholder voices. Creating a stimulating culture improves morale and experience in the school community.

What is the most critical aspect of modern education?

The most important aspect is creating learning environments where students can access grade-level standards, learn about themselves and others, and develop critical thinking skills. Public education is vital in preparing students to contribute to a democratic society.

How do you envision the future of education?

I envision a learner-centered future with technology-enriched environments that personalize learning. Traditional schooling models will continue to shift, with more flexibility and a focus on diverse learning assessment methods. Investment in educator professional development will be crucial.

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

I create educational environments that foster problem-solving and critical thinking. Preparing students to be innovative, globally minded, and courageous is essential for addressing future challenges.

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

I plan to share a framework based on my research and experience, focusing on high expectations, collective responsibility, racial consciousness, and advocacy for equity. Promoting achievement for students of color is a crucial goal.

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

Community partnerships are vital for school success. They support workforce pathways and enhance educational experiences. Thriving communities will see active engagement from community partners.

How do you plan to integrate environmental sustainability into education?

Creating culturally relevant learning environments makes sustainability more appropriate for students. Real-life applications and interdisciplinary lessons help students understand and act on environmental issues.

What innovative educational practices are you excited about exploring?

I’m excited about customizing learning for each student based on their unique skills and interests. Technology offers many opportunities for personalized learning.

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

I believe in continuous professional development through reflection, sharing, and collaboration. Creating spaces for community building and new learning helps deepen and sustain student-centered work.

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

Focusing on gratitude helps balance the stress of the job. Recognizing and celebrating students and staff, creating empathetic environments, and centering humanity in professional development contribute to overall well-being.

How do you envision incorporating global perspectives into local education?

Global perspectives can be integrated through culturally relevant learning environments and technology. Understanding oneself and others racially and culturally provides a window to the world and enhances learning.

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

The most rewarding aspect has been building and deepening relationships with diverse stakeholders. Engaging in dialogue and collaboration, especially during challenging times like the pandemic, has strengthened our community.

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

Balancing work and personal life has been challenging. I prioritize my family and make time for self-care to avoid burnout. Understanding the impact of my work on my personal life is crucial for maintaining balance.

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

Be clear about your purpose and take care of your mental health. Focus on finding balance, disconnecting when needed, and encouraging yourself. Trust in your leadership and create opportunities for positive reflection.

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

I’m passionate about promoting achievement for students of color through teacher beliefs and instructional strategies. My research affirms that these factors significantly impact student success.

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

I plan to start a business, share my knowledge, and support educational work in other districts. Writing a book based on my research and balancing my professional and personal life are also important goals.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Astein Osei

and his insights into educational leadership highlight his unwavering commitment to fostering equitable and inclusive learning environments. His successes from journalism to education underscores the importance of mentorship, strategic vision, and dedication to social justice. As Dr. Osei continues to shape the future of education, his focus on equity, innovation, and community engagement inspires educators and leaders striving to make a positive impact in their communities.

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