AFSA President, Former MSU Trustee, School Leader and Teacher Passes Away

Diann Woodard Unfailingly Spoke Truth to Power

in Pursuit of Workers’ Rights, Children, and Racial and Gender Equality

Diann Woodard, president of the American Federation of School Administrators and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, died on Sunday, May 6, 2018, after a long illness.

Ms. Woodard, whose career included 36 years as a classroom teacher, guidance counselor and assistant principal in Detroit’s public schools, also served an eight-year term as a trustee to her alma mater, Michigan State University. She distinguished herself in these roles as a tireless advocate for the right of all children to a quality public education from kindergarten through college.

Ms. Woodard, born July 10, 1951, is survived by her daughter Kelly.

For the past nine years, Ms. Woodard had commuted regularly from Michigan to Washington, D.C., leading AFSA, where her keen intellect and powers of quiet persuasion were instrumental in forging an alliance with the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, united advocacy that proved instrumental in securing new funding from Congress for principal training in the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in December 2015.

“Diann’s passing is a great loss to America’s labor movement,” said AFSA Executive Vice President Ernest Logan. “She personified the word leader in the fight for union rights and working families, though elected officials and antagonists of public education who mistook her quiet grace for weakness soon found themselves in a much longer, tougher struggle than they anticipated.”

Before being elected president of AFSA, Ms. Woodard served for 16 years on the union’s General Executive Board.

Ms. Woodard grew up in labor as part of a UAW family. Her rise through the ranks of union leadership in Detroit began in November 1998, when she was appointed vice president of the Organization of School Administrators and Supervisors, AFSA Local 28, to complete the term of the retiring vice president. She won election as vice president in 1999, and in January 2000, she ascended to the presidency. She was elected to serve three consecutive three-year terms until her departure in 2009 to become the president of AFSA and a national vice president of the AFL-CIO.

At the AFL-CIO, Ms. Woodard served as vice chair of the Committee on Women Workers and was a strong voice for a greater role for women and minorities in the labor movement.

“America’s school administrators have lost a champion. And I’ve lost a friend,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “From her days growing up in a UAW household in Detroit to her nearly four decades of public service, Diann Woodard always put workers, students and families first.”

“She spent decades fighting on behalf of workers in every profession while standing up for the children whom she has dedicated her life to educating, in the hope of empowering them to think independently and pursue greater opportunities,” Logan said.

“Diann was a stalwart advocate for school leaders and the students they serve. Her tenacity and passion were invaluable assets in our shared crusades to expand Title II funding for principal development and to raise the profile of principals’ work during National Principals Month,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director, National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). “Public education lost one of its greatest champions with Diann’s passing, but we remain inspired by her legacy.”

“On behalf of elementary and middle-level members nationwide, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of Diann Woodard on her passing. Diann’s contributions to the education field are significant and wide-ranging, leaving a legacy that will be felt for many years to come,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, executive director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). “As part of our collective work, NAESP has had the opportunity to see Diann’s tireless advocacy on behalf of school administrators, who benefited greatly from her work. My prayers and deepest sympathies are with her family, AFSA staff members, and all who knew her.”

In 2008, Ms. Woodard was elected to serve an eight-year term as a trustee to Michigan State University. She also served as a board member of the labor school at Wayne State University and the labor board of the National Income Life Insurance Company, as well as on various local boards, including the United Way.

A proud product of Detroit Public Schools, Ms. Woodard earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and master’s and educational specialist’s degrees from Wayne State University. She also received training in labor management at Harvard University. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ms. Woodard’s name to the School Leadership Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing professional development for school principals and assistant principals.

School Leadership Forum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization recognized by the IRS.