2020 Middle & High School Principals Convention 

School kids laughing  Registration Button

Registration is open soon for AWSA’s 2020 Middle and High School Principals Convention, February 12-14, 2020 at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells. Keynote speaker Jimmy Casas will open the conference on importance of leadership in teaching and Colonel Art Athens will close the conference on The Power of Integrity.
In addition, the conference features over twenty pre-conference, roundtable, and concurrent sessions on today’s most pressing issues.

Cost: Pre-Con Sessions $39 or $69, Member Registration $206, Non-Member Registration $348

Click here for a downloadable information flyer.

*Full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 days prior to the start of the convention. Following that date, a 40% administrative fee will be retained. There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event. 

Booking Information:  

Kalahari Resort 
1305 Kalahari Dr, 
Wisconsin Dells, WI
$129 for single/double/triple/quad rooms
Ask for: High School/Middle School Level Principals Conference 2020  

The time to book a block room at a discounted rate will end 1/12/20. There are a limited number of block rooms and they may sell out before that date so we recommend that you make your reservations soon.

Cover of Jimmy Casas' book Culturize

Book With Registration

 The first 300 registrants will receive a copy of Jimmy Casas’ book Culturize!

Average schools don’t inspire greatness—and greatness is what our world needs if we are going to produce world-changing learners.

In Culturize, author and education leader Jimmy Casas shares insights into what it takes to cultivate a community of learners who embody the innately human traits our world desperately needs, such as kindness, honesty, and compassion. His stories reveal how these “soft skills” can be honed while meeting and exceeding academic standards of twenty-first-century learning. You’ll learn...
* How to reach those who seem unreachable
* What to do when students disengage or drop out of school
* How to ensure your learners feel cared for and empowered
* How to create an environment where all learners are challenged and inspired to be their best


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

12:00-4:30  |  Half Day Pre-Con Sessions 

1. Secondary Principals Legal Seminar 

12:00-1:15  | Privacy, Investigations and the Media: Everything You Have Always Wanted to Know About Difficult Legal Situations but Were Afraid to Ask
Malina Piontek and Joe Donovan

In this session, attorney Malina Piontek and communications expert Joe Donovan will discuss many of the things you have wanted to ask about legal matters, but likely have not had the opportunity to do so. In this wide-ranging conversation, the presenters discuss what really is private as it relates to personnel matters, how you can avoid potential pitfalls and how you can protect yourself and your district by staying on the right side of privacy laws. They will also cover some nuances of how to ace a potentially problematic media interview. Come with questions and be ready to learn!” 

1:30-2:45 Legal Considerations for Building Administrators in An Election Year
Mike Julka and Brian Goodman      

It is generally true that presidential election years present interesting considerations and challenges within district buildings.  The U.S. Constitution, state and federal statutes, as well as Board policies, must be considered when addressing political activities by employees, unions and other stakeholder groups, parents, parent organizations, students, and citizens.  In addition, building administrators sometimes get involved in political advocacy.  This presentation will review the legal parameters and boundaries that are applicable to the scope of potential political activity, including the use of buildings, use of social media, protests, literature distribution, public address announcements, etc.  The goal of the presentation will be to provide building administrators with information and resources to assist them in addressing these issues.

3:00-4:15 Law and Technology: Challenges and Solutions for Middle and High School Principals
Kirk Strang

School administrators confront a number of legal issues related to technology almost every day, some obvious and some less apparent. Staff use of technology can present employment issues and other workplace challenges, and can also be a factor in performance, communications, and school climate.  Students’ use of technology also presents challenges for administrators, and can be a factor in pupil discipline, academic integrity, bullying, and any number of other areas.  Technology issues also develop with the technology itself, meaning that new challenges are presented for principals as new devices and software are put to use in our schools, including software monitoring technology that tracks user behavior of students and staff.

This section reviews statutes, cases, and legal principles that define the law in these areas.  We will focus on specific problems that principals confront regularly (whether they know it or not!) and on how principals can address them while protecting themselves and the school district at the same time.  We’ll also consider FAQs and live questions from conference attendees regarding their own experiences and concerns. Join us for this timely and essential program!

2. High School Data Inquiry: College/Career Readiness
Mary Ann Hudziak and Lisa Arneson

Is your high school using data to evaluate readiness?  Most will agree that college and career readiness is more than a test score, but what other data should be investigated?  In this session, participants will use WISEdash for Districts and other data sources to conduct inquiry into equity and outcomes surrounding college and career readiness. Data sources to be examined will include: rigorous coursework, enrollment demographics, academic achievement and growth, career readiness, postsecondary enrollment, and skills readiness. In addition, data sources for the new Act 59 reporting requirements will be examined. Come ready to conduct an inquiry into your high school data and determine equity needs.

2:00-4:00  |  Two Hour Pre-Con Session

4.  Culturize: Every Student.  Every Day.  Whatever it Takes
Jimmy Casas

Eradicate Average! CULTURIZE Your School. Average schools don’t inspire greatness--and greatness is what our world needs if we are going to produce world-changing learners. In this presentation author and education leader Jimmy Casas shares insights into what it takes to cultivate a community of learners who embody the innately human traits our world desperately needs, such as kindness, honesty, and compassion. His stories reveal how these “soft skills” can be honed while re-defining the purpose of the work you do so you will aspire for nothing short of excellence!

5. Planning for Your Retirement
Joel Craven

This session will provide information on the three legs of a solid retirement: the WI Retirement System, Social Security and personal savings (e.g. Roth, 403(b) plans, etc.).  The session will also cover what educators should know about putting savings to good use and public service loan forgiveness.  Come with your questions and leave better prepared for your future.

5:00-6:00  |  Welcome Reception sponsored by Lifetouch


Thursday, February 13, 2020

7:15  |  New Middle and High School Principals Breakfast 

8:00-8:30  | Welcome and Secondary Principal of the Year Recognition

Jimmy Casas Photo

8:30-9:45  |  Opening Keynote

Start. Right. Now. Teach and Lead for Excellence
Jimmy Casas

Excellent teachers lead and excellent leaders teach. Excellent teachers and excellent leaders have much more in common, including 4 key behaviors they exhibit on a daily basis: They Know the Way, Show the Way, Go the Way, and Grow Each Day. Whether leading students or staff, these amazing educators know that in order to lead effectively, we must Start Right Now. In this session, you will explore the importance of teaching and leading from a framework of core values and discover ways to act upon these values to improve the climate and culture of your classroom, school, or district. Learn new ways to inspire, build capacity, model successful behaviors and grow professionally each and every day.  

Jimmy Casas served twenty-two years as a school leader, including fourteen years as Principal at Bettendorf High School. Under his leadership, Bettendorf was named one of the Best High Schools in the country three times by Newsweek and US News & World Report.  Jimmy was named the 2012 Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year and was selected as one of three finalists for NASSP 2013 National Secondary Principal of the Year. In 2014, Jimmy was invited to the White House to speak on the Future Ready Schools pledge. Jimmy is also the author of four books, “What Connected Educators Do Differently,” “Start. Right. Now. - Teach and Lead for Excellence,” the best-selling book “Culturize – Every Student. Every Day. Whatever it Takes,” and his latest release, “Stop. Right. Now. – The 39 Stops to Making Schools Better.” Jimmy currently serves as an adjunct professor for Drake University, teaching courses in educational leadership. Finally, he is the owner and CEO of J Casas & Associates, an educational leadership company aimed at organizing and providing world class professional learning services for educators across the country.

10:00-11:15  |  Concurrent Sessions

1. Select for Excellence: 8 Proven Tips to Improve Your Hiring Practices
Jimmy Casas

There is nothing more important than selecting the right people, people with the right talent who want to be excellent! However, are you modeling excellence during the interview process? Do you approach the selection process with the intention of establishing a meaningful relationship with each candidate? What are the candidates saying about you and your school once they leave the interview? In this session Jimmy will share 8 Tips to Improve Your Hiring Practices, leaving candidates looking back after they complete the interview process saying, “I would give anything to work for that organization!”

2.  Self-Care as Community Care:  Growing the Resilience and Wholeness We Hope to Nurture in Others
Joe Schroeder

The responsibilities of a school leader are daunting, as a variety of folks seek out our limited time, energy, and resources to meet their virtually unlimited needs and desires.  Day after day, week after week, they keep coming and coming and coming.  No wonder that 89% of school administrators report feeling very stressed at least once a week and that high leadership churn prevails.  In such a context, self-care has become a leadership priority, but paradoxically, can be one of the first things squeezed out of a busy administrator’s life!  Rather than becoming just another cautionary statistic, join us for this session where we will explore a variety of approaches you can take to intentionally grow the resilient and compassionate personal disciplines and school culture that value human wholeness alongside academic achievement.

3.  We ARE or We DO?  Monitoring the impact of professional learning communities
Tammy Gibbons

Cultivating teams who recognize their complementary skills and experiences will always exceed the goals of individual efforts.  Teams are more effective in problem solving and drive internal accountability, but schools need to believe they ARE a PLC, not we DO PLC’s as if it’s a task to complete.  Leading a school to embrace and operate as a professional learning community is an important element of leadership. This session will share some practical strategies for moving the needle using collaborative teams.

4. Customized Professional Development
Brenda Vogds and Eric Hill 

Based on the Institute for Personalized Learning’s action research, participants will complete a self-reflection around personalized, learner-centered practices. Participants will use the reflection to determine their professional development needs or interests and engage in collaborative, virtual, or individual learning opportunities. These sessions will provide learners with strategies for implementing personalized learning and assist in designing learning experiences to be used within their ecosystem. Learners will then engage in a small group discussion to share their learning, vision for the next steps, and make potential networking connections.

5.  The Culture Shift to Protect and Empower the Digital-Age Student
Janice Mertes and Chad Kliefoth

How do you frame out a district vision around Keeping Kids Safe Online to shift the dialogue to responsible use? Participants will hear from district teams that leverage the Wisconsin standards for Information and Technology Literacy (ITL), data, equity, trends, and cross-initiative implementation strategies to create a culture of empowered, digital-aged students. The discussion will also focus on emerging topics around screen time, cyber safety, social and emotional learning alignment, family engagement strategies, and smart technologies.  

11:15-12:45  |  Lunch and Dessert with Exhibitors

12:45-2:00  |  Concurrent Sessions

1. Getting Started with Grading for Learning
Jerry Pritzl and Mark Hoernke 

Moving from traditional grading to a Grading for Learning system can feel like an insurmountable challenge.  While difficult to implement, the gains in student achievement and positive school culture are undeniable. This session will guide school leaders through the key components of a successful implementation.  The session will also highlight the deliberate leadership practices necessary to lead this transformative change in a school system.

2.  Grading for Learning:  Moving Forward
Larry Zeman

Have you survived the initial shock of transitioning your school to learning friendly grading practices and standards-based grading?  Are you ready to work on strategies to connect grading with your curriculum, reduce administrative duties for your teachers, and to motivate students?  This session will highlight strategies on how to connect your curriculum with your grade books, how to simplify teacher grading, and how to implement immediate tier II interventions based on real time student learning data.   

3.  Navigating the Long Implementation Bridge:  Leadership Skills for Deep Change
Joe Schroeder

Thought leaders such as Michael Fullan often talk about three phases of change: initiation, implementation, and institutionalization.  Despite our best efforts, most change efforts unfortunately stall out somewhere between initiation and early implementation, which is concerning for many reasons, particularly because student learning doesn’t benefit much until the effort becomes institutionalized!  This session will help you to recognize problems of practice that lead to this all-too-common dilemma and, more importantly, will provide a number of tools to bridge this gap in your school so that your collective impact on students can be more deeply realized. 

4.  High Impact Leadership Teams
Tammy Gibbons

School leaders need teams who recognize the importance of interdependence; a group of people who work towards a common goal, share responsibility for specific outcomes and demonstrate mutual accountability to continuous improvement.  To create schools of equity and excellence, we must focus on teams versus individuals to ensure exponential growth and impact.  This requires leaders who develop capacity while tending to culture and have a clear vision.  This session will be a fast paced sharing of resources, strategies and tools for high impact teams.

5.  All About the Learners
Brenda Vogds and Eric Hill

Many educators struggle with effecting lasting change for all students in a traditional educational environment. The good news is that there is a growing movement of educators who are working to build an educational ecosystem that places the learner at the center. The Institute for Personalized Learning will highlight key entry points to make learner-centered education a reality. Participants will discuss and explore the differences between learners and learning and will walk away with strategies on how to get started in their own schools. If you have been intrigued with the personalized learning movement but were unsure how to make it a reality in your school, this session is for you! 

2:15-3:25  |  Roundtable Sessions
(Two Rounds: 2:15-2:45 PM/2:55-3:25 PM) 

1. Virtual Days
Bob Vitale, Kirk Woosencraft and Jeff Haubenreich

How can we leverage technology to provide learning opportunities for students when they are home due to inclement weather?  Last year the School District of Menomonee Falls piloted a Virtual Day experience for our students.  We are pleased to share our approach in making virtual learning relevant and engaging for students.

2. Integrating a Trauma Sensitive Practices System - One School’s Journey
Derrick Kunsman and Katie Bergeron 

With a growing number of students going through traumatic experiences in our community our school has been intentional about how we use our time and resources to address these needs. We will share the journey of how we continue to build our trauma sensitive system in a building of 150 staff and 1,100 6th - 8th grade students. 

3.  Self-Care and Work-Life Balance
Joe Schroeder

It's incredibly easy and common for these two leadership essentials to get squeezed out of a busy leader's life.  Associate Executive Director, Joe Schroeder, will facilitate a conversation about ways we can feed those parts of our personal lives that make us whole and vital human beings that actually make us more effective and efficient leaders at work.

4. Beyond School Safety Grants: What is the Office of School Safety Up To Next? 
Kristen Devitt

Office of School Safety Staff will discuss current initiatives to provide no or low-cost training and technical assistance to schools in Wisconsin.  In particular, the Office will provide information regarding our statewide threat reporting system, developing school critical incident response teams and initiatives to increase access to mental health/AODA providers for children.

5. Beyond Scores: Redefining Career and College Readiness
Tim Schell

Our students are more than test scores.  This section will provide an overview on Redefining Ready, changes to the state report card, and resources you can use for a bigger picture of your students' and school's progress toward Career and College Readiness.

6.  Building to District-Level Leadership:  A Lens Adjustment
Laura Love

I never thought I would move from the principalship to a district office position. Maybe you wonder what that would mean for you. If you are interested in learning about this adjustment in your leadership lens, please join me for a conversation about what a district role entails and how it connects to students and building-level educators.

7. Everything you Wanted to Know about Special Education but were Afraid to Ask: Bring Your Question to the DPI Special Education Team
Alicia Reinhard and Christina Spector 

This roundtable will provide information on major themes relating to supporting students with IEPs and include information on legal requirements as well as supports through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that improve in the identification, IEP development, and IEP implementation for students who receive special education through an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

8.  Restorative Practices
Sara Eichten and Shannon Donnelly

Join us for a conversation about our new journey that utilizes restorative practices when handling students with challenging behaviors and building a positive school community. Changing the way we speak with each other is imperative to building relationships and ensuring that everyone feels heard. We will talk about our journey and answer any questions you may have about implementing restorative practices in your building.

9.  State Supports for Meeting Students’ Mental Health Needs
Gregg Curtis

The WI School Mental Health Framework seeks to meld a systems-of-care approach within a multi-level system of support.  This roundtable will discuss the core features of the WI SMH Framework as they relate to serving students and families, and present updates on state policy and resources.  Participants’ questions will be addressed, and they should walk away with key practices for supporting mental health into existing systems 

10. Do Your Students Have a Voice?
Jon Bosworth

When students are involved in school decisions, positive things happen.  Students become more engaged, they feel valued and they might surprise you with what they know and want.   Come and share ideas how to empower students through shared decision making and the democratic process.

11. Creating a Safe and Welcoming Environment for the Transitioning Student
Caleb Hundt

Learn how to transform your practices, policies, and environment to suit the needs for ALL students, and learn about the introduction of Student Support Plans, Gender ID Presentations, and SEL Grouping. 

12. Vaping in Schools 
 Gregg Wieczorek

Vaping has become a serious problem for all middle and high schools across the country.  Arrowhead High School has been doing some innovation practices in an attempt to discourage students from starting this dangerous habit.  In fact, their program was highlighted recently on a Good Morning America segment. During this discussion Arrowhead principal Gregg Wieczorek will explain their program as well as solicit new ideas from others at the table.  Be prepared to share any ideas that have worked in your school.


5:00-6:00  |  Reception Sponsored by Jostens


Friday, February 14, 2020

7:00-8:15  |  Optional Fellowship Breakfast
Joe Schroeder

School administrators support the boundless needs of those they lead and serve. But who supports them -- especially in ways tending to the heart and spirit? Join AWSA's Associate Executive Director, Joe Schroeder, and administrative colleagues from across the state in this Christian fellowship breakfast option that, now in its third year, is proving for many to be an annual highlight of encouragement and assistance for the next leg of the leadership and life journey. PLEASE NOTE: the Fellowship Breakfast will adjourn in time so that participants can also engage in full with content of the Leveraging EE Flexibility General Session later in the morning.

8:30-9:15  |  Breakfast Program
Leveraging EE Flexibility to Deepen Leadership Impact: An Overview
Joe Schroeder

Educator Effectiveness is designed to significantly grow teacher practice and student learning.  However, its implementation in many places often renders little growth for all the work.  This session will provide an OVERVIEW of the EE feedback themes that arose out of an AWSA Thoughts Leaders Group last year and clarifications about legitimate flexibility and implementation shifts you can consider taking to garner more impact for all the effort. 

9:15-10:15  |  Concurrent Sessions

1. Leveraging EE Flexibility to Deepen Leadership Impact: Applying Potential Ideas in Your Setting
Joe Schroeder 

This session is designed to support school leaders who are interested in refining local EE practices so that prospects for deeper impact on teaching and learning rise. To this end, we will more deeply examine the implementation flexibilities broadly shared in the 8:30 am general session overview and explore several examples of legitimate EE shifts that several Wisconsin schools/systems are taking in line with this flexibility, which may be a match for your school/system, too.  Bonus:  Key EE Leaders Katie Rainey of DPI and Cathy Clarksen of CESA 6 plan to join us for this session.

2.  Legislative Update
John Forester

John Forester will provide an update on the Legislative issues of most importance to principals. 

3. Conversations that Cultivate Reflection and Leverage Improvement
Tammy Gibbons

This session will prompt participants to consider how they respond and approach difficult conversations about instructional practice, adult dispositions, and reluctance to feedback.  This session allows you to consider and practice the approaches you take with people who may not be reflective, tend to dismiss feedback, think differently than you or are simply defensive.  Leave with some coaching stems that can be used immediately. 

4. Tools Every Secondary Leader Needs for Communicating about Critical Issues
Joe Donovan

We all know that effectively engaging students, staff, parents, and other stakeholders is vital for principals. But, how do we have effective two-way communication about the most sensitive issues we face, from issues related to student and staff social media posts to arrests on school grounds to facilities-related crises to prom wardrobe issues?  In this session, communications expert Joe Donovan will introduce a process and set of tools to thoughtfully engage all stakeholders about critical issues. Participants are encouraged to bring their most challenging communications issues to the session.

Art Athens photo10:30-11:45  |  CLOSING KEYNOTE 

The Power of Integrity
Colonel Art Athens

Integrity is essential for living lives of purpose and impact and building teams founded on trust and commitment. This presentation answers four key questions: (1) What do we mean by integrity? (2) What does integrity look like in action? (3) How does a leader maintain his or her integrity, particularly in challenging circumstances? and (4) How does a leader create an organizational climate of integrity?

Colonel Athens is the Director of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership and a member of the Academy’s Senior Leadership Team.

Colonel Athens retired from the Marine Corps in July 2008 with over 30 years of combined active duty and reserve service. As a Marine Officer, he commanded units in the 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings, served with the U.S. Space Command and instructed at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, the Marine Corps’ equivalent of the Navy’s Top Gun School. Additionally, he was a White House Fellow under President Ronald Reagan, the Special Assistant to the NASA Administrator following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, the Executive Director of OCF, a worldwide non-profit organization helping military personnel integrate their faith and profession, the Commandant of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the Naval Academy’s first Distinguished Military Professor of Leadership.

Aside from his professional responsibilities, Colonel Athens has been a volunteer lacrosse coach at the high school and collegiate levels and the Washington Post recognized him as their High School Coach of the Year.

Colonel Athens holds a bachelor’s degree in operations research from the Naval Academy where he lettered in lacrosse and served as the Brigade Commander, the senior ranking midshipman at the Academy. He also earned masters’ degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School and the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.