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Dr. Astein Osei – A Journey in Educational Leadership

by Jessica Weisman-Pitts
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Dr. Astein Osei –  A Journey in Educational Leadership

 

Astein Osei

Dr. Astein Osei and his path into education defies conventional expectations, evolving from a budding career in journalism and communications to a distinguished role in educational leadership. It all began with a pivotal moment during his senior year of college when a mentor asked him to substitute teach. This experience ignited a passion for teaching and guiding young minds, leading him to leave his original career aspirations behind. 

Growing up in Illinois, Dr. Astein Osei was deeply influenced by teachers and administrators of color who instilled high expectations and a belief in his potential. Today, his career reflects a profound commitment to equity, inclusion, and excellence in education, showcasing the transformative power of strategic and empathetic leadership.

Career Beginnings

Dr. Astein Osei initially envisioned a career in journalism and communications, fueled by an internship at Fox Sports during his senior year of college. However, a mentor’s request to substitute teach changed his path dramatically. Stepping into the classroom for the first time, Dr. Osei felt an immediate connection to the students, drawing him to pursue a career in education. This decision was influenced by his experiences growing up in Illinois, where he was inspired by teachers and administrators of color who held high expectations and believed in his potential. “I believe that God has ordered my steps and that the field of education for me is not a job but a vocation,” Dr. Osei reflects.

Dr. Osei started as a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. His early years in the classroom were complemented by his roles as a football and track and field coach, which allowed him to connect with students on multiple levels. These foundational experiences emphasized building relationships and understanding students’ holistic needs. These early interactions shaped Dr. Osei’s approach to education, as he sought to create environments where all students could thrive.

Superintendency in St. Louis Park Public Schools

In 2017, Dr. Astein Osei became the superintendent of St. Louis Park Public Schools, a position he held for over six years. His tenure was marked by significant achievements and initiatives to improve educational outcomes and foster equity. One of his first significant accomplishments was leading the district to pass a $100.9 million bond referendum and renewing the operating levy. This funding was crucial for district-wide infrastructure improvements and educational initiatives, ensuring that the physical and learning environments were conducive to student success.

Dr. Osei successfully led a collaborative process to adjust school start and end times, which was approved for the 2020-21 school year. This initiative optimized educational outcomes by aligning school schedules with students’ natural rhythms, enhancing their daily experience and academic performance. Another notable achievement was the district’s move to a K-8 talent development model, which replaced traditional gifted and talented programs with more inclusive practices that recognize and nurture the talents of all students.

Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

A hallmark of Dr. Osei’s leadership has been his unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion. In 2020, he spearheaded the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for racial equity transformation. This plan emphasized dismantling systemic barriers and creating learning environments that affirm the potential of every student. “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,” he says. This initiative included specific actions to close achievement gaps, enhance cultural competence among staff and students, and integrate equity principles into all aspects of the school district’s operations.

Under Dr. Osei’s guidance, the district adopted a more inclusive K-8 talent development model. This shift was based on the belief that all students possess inherent talents that can lead to exceptional achievements when adequately supported and developed. By implementing this model, Dr. Osei aimed to create a dynamic and supportive learning environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential, challenge themselves, and achieve academic and personal growth. “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,” he explains.

Dr. Osei’s efforts in equity and inclusion extended beyond curriculum and instruction. He was actively involved in the broader St. Louis Park community, serving on various boards and committees such as the Children First Executive Committee, St. Louis Park Human Rights Commission, and St. Louis Park Noon Rotary. His holistic approach to education reform included the voices of students, families, and community members, fostering environments where diversity is celebrated and equity is a fundamental value.

Professional Milestones and Achievements

Numerous significant achievements mark Dr. Osei’s tenure as an educational leader. His leadership in securing substantial funding through bond referendums stands out, with a $100.9 million acquisition in 2017 and an even larger $136 million in 2021. These funds supported district-wide infrastructure improvements and educational initiatives, ensuring that the physical and learning environments are conducive to student success.

In 2020, Dr. Osei led the development of the Strategic Plan for Racial Equity Transformation, marking a significant leap toward actualizing a school environment where diversity, equality, and inclusiveness are at the core of educational practices. This comprehensive strategy underscores his unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and fostering a culture of belonging and respect for all students, regardless of their background.

His career includes diverse roles that have prepared him for these achievements, such as Assistant Superintendent and Director of Educational Equity. These roles gave him crucial insights into school district management’s strategic and operational aspects. In 2023, the Minnesota Association of School Administrators recognized Dr. Osei as the Region 9 Administrator of Excellence, highlighting his contributions to the field of education.

Philosophy of Education

Dr. Osei’s philosophy of education centers on the conviction that education is a transformative force capable of shaping a just and equitable society. He emphasizes the importance of creating educational environments that cultivate high expectations and opportunities for all students, focusing on addressing the needs and potentials of students of color. “My educational experience as a student is a motivating factor in my pursuit to create racial equity transformation in the schools and districts I work,” he asserts.

Dr. Osei believes in the critical role of public education in nurturing citizens who are well-prepared to contribute positively to democracy and address global challenges. His approach to governance is tactical and relationship-based, prioritizing equity and excellence to ensure that every student receives the support and resources necessary to achieve their fullest potential. This philosophy underpins his commitment to developing educational policies and practices that are inclusive, culturally responsive, and aimed at closing achievement gaps.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Astein Osei is committed to fostering environments where every student can thrive. His unexpected foray into education, ignited by the guidance of a mentor, evolved into a deep-seated passion for ensuring equitable and inclusive learning experiences for all. Dr. Osei’s tenure in education is marked by strategic endeavors to address systemic inequities, serving as a testament to his dedication to cultivating settings that support both academic achievement and the holistic development of students.

His leadership style, characterized by a careful blend of empathy, strategic vision, and a steadfast commitment to social justice, epitomizes the essence of purposeful leadership in today’s intricate educational landscape. Dr. Osei tackles the achievement gap and empowers students to become mindful global citizens through his advocacy for racial equity and inclusivity.