ACSA EdCal logo.
Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Lillie Campbell with her husband, George.
Beloved ACSA figure retires
Former president Campbell recruited countless leaders to the association
April 12, 2021
Former ACSA president and recruiter Lillie Campbell has retired from her ACSA duties after many years in service to the organization, its members and California’s students. She announced her retirement at the start of 2021.
“Lillie Campbell embodies the heart, courage and dedication necessary to make ACSA the driving force in ensuring a world class, equitable education for all California students,” said ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith. “Whenever I travel the state, I am not surprised to see Lillie in attendance lauding the benefits of ACSA membership and inspiring participation.”
Campbell first joined ACSA in 1976. She served in leadership positions for Region 3 and was elected to serve as ACSA President in the 2000-01 school year, becoming the first African American woman to hold ACSA’s highest office. Later, Campbell joined the ACSA Member Recruitment Team, where she enlisted countless school administrators to reach their goals through ACSA membership.
“Lillie Campbell is a staple of ACSA. I cannot think of a stronger advocate for ACSA than her,” said Senior Director of Member Services Margie Cuizon-Armellino, who directs the Member Recruitment Team. “She has been a tremendous asset to the organization and has positively affected the careers of many school administrators over the years, both when she was a member and later on as an ACSA staffer. It will be hard to imagine an ACSA without Lillie and her magic touch.”
Campbell said she struggled with the decision to step back from ACSA but ultimately decided that the timing was right.
“So many great things have happened to me, and it’s because of ACSA.”
— Lillie Campbell, Former ACSA President and recruiter
“I’m a people person and as a recruiter, my job was to go out and reach out and touch people and talk to them. ... I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t able to go out with the pandemic,” she said. “I started thinking about the years I’ve given, and I just thought that I was not giving to ACSA what it needed from me, and it was bothering me.”
Campbell’s education career started as a teacher in her native Arkansas. She married and moved with her husband to Germany, where she opened a kindergarten program at the military base. Arriving in Sacramento in 1970, Campbell was hired as a teacher’s aide in the Rio Linda Union School District (now Twin Rivers USD).
That is where the woman who has recruited so many people to join ACSA first heard about the organization.
“My Superintendent Fred Joyce, he saw something in me,” she recalled. “When he read my letter from the principal in Germany, he thought, I need to mentor this person. He said, ‘You are going to go back and get your administrative credential, and you are going to join ACSA.’”
She earned her masters’ degree and started attending ACSA Region 3 meetings, where she became involved in the equity committee and curriculum development committee before becoming president of Region 3 in 1992-93.
She represented Region 3 on the state board, and it wasn’t long before people started suggesting she run for ACSA president.
“When the votes were cast and they said our new president was Lillie Campbell — that was the moment I can’t even begin to explain, even after all of these years. It was a first in many ways,” she said.
That same year, Campbell’s sister was president of the California Teacher’s Association, giving the two women seats of power in the leading education management and labor organizations.
Campbell said she often had to fight to prove herself as a leader. Looking at the faces of the early presidents of ACSA in the ’70s, Campbell said she is glad to see ACSA’s leadership become more diverse over the years.
“I think it’s the greatest thing. Whenever I went to meetings and I saw a black face, I made it my business to say, ‘You can, too. You can do the same thing I’m doing. All it takes is perseverance and the will to want to do it,’” she said. “My thing has been encouraging people of color, whether it’s Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Latinas — you can do it, too.”
During her time as president, Campbell enjoyed visiting every ACSA region (18 at the time), and traveling to Washington, D.C. to lobby around special education funding.
Following her presidency in 2003, she was awarded the Ferd. Kiesel Award, ACSA’s highest honor.
“It’s almost as if there’s been a little halo around my head. And I don’t take credit for it. I’m very thankful and very blessed,” she said. “So many great things have happened to me, and it’s because of ACSA.”
In her role as an ACSA recruiter, Campbell was asked to reach out to members in Region 3 and beyond. Her husband, George, would drive her all over northern California to attend networking events and work the membership booth at ACSA conferences, where she would gently (“sometimes not so gently”) recruit new members.
“My approach is you need ACSA. You can’t get along without it, so let’s talk about how ACSA can support you in your roles,” she said. “I’d always end by saying we do not want you to be a bench-sitting member … we want you to become involved.”
ACSA Region 4 Consultant Rob Phillips came to be friends with Campbell over the years.
“A number of times she was responsible for the swearing in of region officers and always made this a memorable swearing in rather than just an official act. As always, she went above and beyond her prescribed duties,” he said. “Lil has been an unofficial member of the Region 4 Executive Board and has blessed us with her wisdom and caring nature.”
“When she speaks about ACSA her spirit shines through,” he said.
Region 3 President Laura Butler said Campbell was a regular presence at membership functions when she first joined ACSA.
“Because of her warm personality and her radiating smile, she always lit up every room,” Butler said. “Throughout the years, she has been a mentor to numerous educators in her illustrious career. I feel very lucky to know her.”
Since retiring, members have been reminding Campbell that if it had not been for her, they wouldn’t be in ACSA.
“I have done what people did for me — give them the encouragement and the need to feel that they can succeed,” Campbell said.
Lillie Campbell is known for attending many ACSA events, and is seen here standing with Rob Martinez.
Contact Us

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators