COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., September 20, 2023 — Michael Gaal superintendent of Colorado Springs District 11 is working with the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, and nine other superintendents from across the country to improve the health and well-being of students, families and educators nationwide. Gaal was selected to serve as a national volunteer leader for the Association’s 2023-2024 national Superintendent Council which is focused on providing solutions to help schools combat issues that affect physical and mental well-being such as vaping and tobacco use, managing stress and healthy food access. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good health is associated with academic success and health risks such as poor dietary choices and inadequate physical activity have a significant impact on how well students perform in school.

The Superintendent Council is an elite group of American Heart Association volunteers comprised of superintendents from a diverse mix of urban and rural public-school districts across the United States. Council members serve a two-year term, participating in nationwide stakeholder sessions, and offering their individual and collective expertise to assist the American Heart Association in creating a culture of health in school systems and communities across the country.

The council  complements the work of the American Heart Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™, where volunteers with different backgrounds and perspectives focus on improving the health and well-being within their local communities and are committed to efforts that will help children achieve healthier, happier and longer lives.

2023-24 American Heart Association Superintendent Council members: 

  • Chris Allen, Ph.D., Midway Independent School District, Midway, Texas
  • Jeffrey Bearden, Ph.D., Forsyth County Schools, Cumming, Georgia
  • Christopher Bernier, Ph.D., Lee County School District, Fort Myers, Florida              
  • Michael Gaal, Colorado Springs School District 11, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, Ph.D., University City School District, University City, Missouri
  • Christopher R. Hoffman, Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, California
  • Mark Laurrie, Niagara Falls City School District, Niagara Falls, New York
  • Matt Pearce, Ph.D., Republic School District, Republic, Missouri
  • Aaron Spence, Ph.D., Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn, Virginia
  • Kristi Wilson, Ph.D., Buckeye Elementary School District, Buckeye, Arizona

The work of the American Heart Association, to save and improve every child’s life, is rooted in the organizational vision that all children, regardless of gender, race, location or economic status, should be able grow to their full potential. Efforts are being made around the country, including through this council, to make the places where kids live, learn and play to support their physical health and mental well-being, because according to the American Heart Association, only 29% of children have high cardiovascular health1 based on Life’s Essential 8 measurements

To learn more about American Heart Association youth-based programs visit


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookX or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries:

Name: Lyndsey Albright,, 303.941.5460

Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and