DALLAS, September 12, 2023 — With the start of the new school year, ten school system superintendents from coast to coast are working with the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, to improve the health and well-being of students, families and educators nationwide. These top volunteer leaders, who are members of the association’s 2023-2024 national Superintendent Council will focus on providing guidance on how schools across the country can combat challenges that affect physical and mental well-being – contemporary issues like vaping and tobacco use, stress management and healthy food access.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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.[1]  

“The volunteer Superintendent Council plays a critical role in our relentless efforts to build longer healthier lives” said Marsha Jones, volunteer chairperson of the board of the American Heart Association. “In lending their expertise and knowledge of schools and the barriers they face to achieving health, these volunteer leaders will help create transformational impact that will touch the lives of many.”  

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 nationwide work of the American Heart Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge, where volunteers focus on improving the health and well-being within their local schools and are committed to efforts that will help children achieve healthier, happier and longer lives.

The 2023-24 American Heart Association volunteer Superintendent Council members are: 

  • Chris Allen, Ph.D., Marble Falls Independent School District, Marble Falls, 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, 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. According to the American Heart Association, only 29% of children have high cardiovascular health based on Life’s Essential 8 measurements

To learn more about American Heart Association youth-based programs visit www.heart.org/getstarted

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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:

Megan Ramsey: 980-613-9066; megan.ramsey@heart.org

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

heart.org and stroke.org