July 1st Edition - Best Of Edition

The AWSA Update Bulletin is ending the school year with the five most read articles of 2019-20. New editions of the Update will begin again in two weeks for the 2020-21 school year.

12 Things School Leaders Should Stop Doing Today

by Jimmy Casas

A couple of weeks ago I was part of a group discussion where a building principal shared that he had been called to the superintendent’s office.  You could tell by the tone in his voice that he was a bit nervous about why his superintendent had requested the meeting. He shared that it wasn’t the first time he had been called in to have “a talk.” This got me to thinking how often we behave in similar ways (both intentionally and unintentionally) as building and district leaders when it comes to managing conversations and our decisions, and the negative impact this can have on the overall culture of any organization. Please know I share these with you because at one time or another I have acted in the manner I describe below, even though my intentions were to want to be better, not only for members of my school community, but for my growth as a leader.  As I grew and matured into the role of a building principal, I did my best to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them, knowing full well I would fall short at times.

Read more.

Coaching Emotional Resilience: How will we bounce back?

by Tammy Gibbons, AWSA Director of Professional Development

“How you interpret and make sense of events is a juncture point where emotional resilience increases or depletes. You make the choice about what story to tell.  When you tell empowering stories, your optimism may expand and optimism is a key trait of resilient people.” -- Elena Aguilar

Just a few short months ago, I received the news that my children had a sibling born.  My husband and I are in our 50’s, adopted our two children in 2017 and now found ourselves at a juncture we knew may come. 

Read more.

Why Kids Misbehave

by Brian Mendler, Author 

I firmly believe that understanding why a student misbehaves is the key to changing that behavior. Once understood, it is easy to realize how ridiculous many of the traditional consequences we currently use are.

Imagine you are a doctor and five patients come to you with a runny nose. You give them all tissue. The next day all come back. You give more tissue. Again they come back. This cycle goes on until you start asking some questions. You quickly learn the first person has allergies. The second refuses to wear a hat when it is cold out, and the third is a cocaine addict. The symptom (runny nose) is the same. The solution to the symptom is completely different for all. Without understanding why the runny nose exists, it is almost impossible to properly treat any of the patients. View detention, in-school suspension and suspension as tissue. They might wipe the problem away for a few minutes, but none fix the real underlying issue.

Read more.

Classroom Libraries: Who Owns the Reading?

by Matt Renwick, Principal, Mineral Point Elementary School. 

“You are welcome to check out books as long as you are reliable.”

I had been looking at the library in the church, a few minutes before mass started. We weren’t at the church in which we belong, one in a neighboring town. The parish librarian noticed what I was doing and offered this comment.

Read more.

Pain, Promise, and the Path to Racial Justice

By Jim Lynch and Joe Schroeder, AWSA

Race is a social construct.  The genome has been mapped, and we know that our species share 99.9% of our DNA with one another.1

That “social construct” has very real meaning in our country.  Babies who are black and white are born with the same amazing potential.  However, based solely on the social construct of race, we can predict wide disparities for people of color in education, criminal justice, health, and poverty.  And, here in Wisconsin, we have some of the widest disparities in the nation.2

Read more.

July 16th Edition

What are Districts Planning to Do This Fall? Please Upload Your District's Plan!

School districts are beginning to share their plans for fall instruction.  Milwaukee will open the year with virtual instruction while many districts have announced plans to return in-person or in a hybrid format.  We have started this webpage for members to upload your district's plan when it is announced. 

There is so much we can learn from one another by continuing to share information and tools across school and district boundaries in service to each of our students!

Data Disrupted: Planning for Student Growth with the Data You Have

COVID has disrupted the data we normally use to monitor and improve our students’ academic and social-emotional growth. The WISExplore team made this 12-minute video to provide ideas, resources, and suggested next steps to use the data you have to effectively identify needs and monitor growth.

*For slides and live links that appeared in this video please check out this link. 

If data inquiry is a priority for you, please consider registering for the Data Leadership Academy which is designed to help leaders and leadership teams develop an inquiry mindset, data use culture, and capacity to lead continuous improvement efforts that focus on high-quality data-informed teaching, learning, and systems improvement. This year’s academy will specifically guide participants through the barriers created by COVID.

New Communications Resource Includes Planning Tools, Sample Surveys, and, Communication Templates

AWSA's communication partner, the Donovan Group, has created the Communication Plan for Reopening Schools.

The plan includes a month by month roadmap of recommended communication tactics and a wealth of templates for your use.  This brief video provides an overview of how to take advantage of the sample surveys, documents, and guidance in the plan.

Special Education: The School Principal’s Role in Addressing Additional Services due to Extended School Closures?

Despite the significant efforts of local education agencies (LEAs) and families, distance learning may not always have been effective during the school closure. As a result, some students with disabilities may have experienced a regression in skills and lack of progress, and may need additional services to catch-up. The purpose of this article is to focus on the school principal’s role, especially as the LEA representative at individualized education program (IEP) team meetings, in determining and providing additional services for students with disabilities who did not make sufficient progress toward their IEP goals.

Read more. 

Broadband: DPI Resources to Address Access and Security

This article includes resources DPI has been developing to help educators, families, and students with affordable access to broadband, devices, and cybersecurity tools.

Read more.

July 29th Edition

Beginning With the End in Mind: Identifying Your Success Criteria for Reopening School

Reopening school this fall within a global pandemic is very different from previous years in that it presents an adaptive challenge.  The unpredictability inherent within an adaptive challenge prevents us from “looking to the past” for guidance but rather requires us to “learn as we go” through the process.  Essentially, the multitude of unique logistical problems to solve within the various back-to-school scenarios this fall, which are set amid the ongoing fluidity of developments and divergent opinions on the matter make this a leadership challenge for the ages.  

So of course, it is easy for any leader to default into reactive mode.  But in a moment fraught with so much complexity and uncertainty, the purpose of this article and linked screencast video is to provide you an opportunity to be proactive in all this.  For to be sure, the reopening of school will get underway, one way or another.  That’s a given.  But 90 days in, (A) how do YOU want to be and (B) what do you want to be most evident about YOUR SCHOOL, regardless of the approach at the start? These are key variables -- and unlike so many things right now, these are two variables that you can determine!  

Read More. 

School-Based Mental Health Services for Students in Remote, In-Person and Blended Learning  

The need for equitable, high quality, proactive, and responsive mental health services within an equitable multilevel system of support already existed prior to the pandemic.  What has changed is the ways in which we must provide school-based mental health services. 

Read More.

COVID Advocacy: Flexibility and Funding

This article includes updates on DPI’s approach to providing needed flexibility and the critical need for federal action to avoid enormous PK-12 budget cuts this year.


The CARES Act became law on March 27th and included COVID support for America’s schools.  In Wisconsin, this support will be delivered in three ways:

  • The DPI has begun to distribute $174 million through ESSER grants (costs incurred between March 13, 20, and September 30, 22 will be eligible for reimbursement).
  • The DPI will provide statewide support to a) expand access to high-quality online content, b) provide professional development for remote instruction, and c) expand the capacity of school staff to provide mental health services.  The Department is expected to provide more details on this support in the coming weeks.
  • The Governor announced this week that he will provide an additional $46 million of CARES Act funding to 150 school districts. 

Funding: 2020-21 State Budget: 

There is an enormous concern throughout the country about the devastating impact of COVID on state budgets for 2020-21.  In Wisconsin, estimates show a potential $1 billion hole in next year’s budget which would necessitate deep cuts in education or heavy state borrowing.  The Governor recently announced a budget cut of $250 million for this year (the impact on PK-12 has not been shared yet) 

In May, the House passed the HEROES Act which included $90 billion for state stabilization funding to fill state budget deficits ($58 billion dedicated to education).  It will be critical for the US Senate to pass legislation that includes stabilization funding.  AWSA with our partners in the School Administrators Alliance sent this letter to Senators Baldwin and Johnson on July 23. 


Educators planning for next school year, during the ongoing COVID Pandemic, need flexibility from state laws and rules to best meet students’ needs.  Flexibility related to licensure, hours of instruction, assessment, and more will need to be provided as soon as possible as districts put plans in place. With input from the COVID Thought Leaders Team, AWSA submitted list of needed areas of flexibility to the DPI on June 30. 

The DPI will soon release the COVID-19 School District Flexibility Application.  The application will allow districts to submit multiple requests for flexibility in one application. 

Debra Paradowski Accepts National Associate Principal of the Year Award 

On July 20, 2020, Debra Paradowski of Arrowhead Union High School accepted the National Associate Principal of the Year Award in a virtual ceremony held by the NASSP. 

If you missed their Virtual Awards Recognition Program, you can find it here: https://bit.ly/3hj9AtS