2024 Middle & High School Principals Convention 

 The 2024 Middle and High School Principals Convention will take place February 7-9, 2024 at Madison Concourse Hotel. 

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Cost of the Convention:

Member Registration:  $265           
Non-Member Registration: $415          
Legal Pre-Conference: $99
Pre-Conference: $49

Book Relentless by Hamish Brewer $16

Book Principal in Balance by Jessica Cabeen $25


Madison Concourse Hotel
One West Dayton Street, Madison
$174 single/double or $224 governor’s club
Ask for: AWSA High School/Middle School Principals Conference
Block expires: 1/15/24
Hotel overnight parking: $15/night; $20/night valet 
Group Direct Booking Link No login/Attendee Code Needed


February 7, 2024

12:00 - 4:15 PM  |  Secondary Principals Legal Seminar ($99)

12:00 - 1:15 | Secondary Principals Legal General Session

School Law Update
Kirk Strang, Attorney, Strang Law

This session covers the latest developments in school law.  Principals have found themselves on the front lines of several legal developments, including issues related to transgender students’ names and pronouns, student dress codes and depictions of firearms, staff and student speech and expression, as well as employment accommodations related to religion.  Principals are also finding themselves at the heart of public protests about school rules and reading materials, and are pressed into difficult service to address claims levied against the school district by angry citizens. 

Attorney Kirk Strang of Strang Law, LLC will review the law underlying these situations and will offer practical guidance on how to handle situations covered by developing areas of the law.

1:30-2:45 & 3:00-4:15 Breakout Sessions (repeated)

1. Student Behavior (including vaping) and Student Search and Seizure
Malina Piontek, AWSA Retained Attorney 

Administrators today must be able to navigate a number of competing issues when analyzing all of the potential required and discretionary procedures and/ or consequences based on the student’s behavior, including school district rules and policies, and legal considerations.  In this presentation, Attorneys Bob Butler and Malina Piontek will cover constitutional issues that arise in a student search, state statutes covering student searches and practical tips to balance the rights of the individual student and the school district’s desire for a safe learning environment.  This session will deal specifically with current issues involving vaping, academic honesty in the age of AI, and much more.

2. Understanding the Different Legal Standards Applicable to Social Media Use by Employees, Students, and Citizens
Brian Goodman, Attorney, Boardman Clark

Social media utilization has become a part of our way of life, including its prevalence impacting schools.  Interestingly, the legal standards that are applicable to the regulation of social media in a school district context differ demonstrably depending upon multiple factors, including the person engaging in the social media use and the content.  Attorney Brian Goodman will dissect all of this so that building administrators have the foundational principles necessary for approaching and responding to social media issues that impact their buildings, including a focused analysis of First Amendment “freedom of speech/expression.”  The presentation will include policy considerations, as well as assessing social media content that allegedly “crosses the lines” of harassment and defamation, particularly impacting building administrators and staff.  Attendee questions will be welcome.

3. You Received a Report of Misconduct, Now What?  A Primer for Administrators on how to Address Bullying, Unlawful Harassment, and Sexual Harassment Under Title IX
Bob Butler, Associate Executive Director, WASB and Tess O’Brien-Heinzen, Attorney, Renning, Lewis & Lacy

One of the most challenging tasks an administrator faces is being able to respond promptly and effectively to messy situations involving student misconduct, while ensuring compliance with state and federal law and district policies and handbooks.  In this presentation, Bob and Tess will provide a legal primer so administrators understand how and when the laws, policies, and handbooks apply at school.  They will then present case studies involving complex fact situations and provide administrators with the tools to address them step by step, ensuring compliance with all, including mandatory reporting, bullying, unlawful harassment, and sexual harassment under Title IX.   The presentation will be interactive and participants will be encouraged to engage, ask questions, and share experiences.


2:00 - 4:00 PM  |  Pre-Con Sessions ($49)

1. True Identity
John A. Jenson, Author                                                                     

Administrators are being challenged like never before. Talent is hard to attract and sometimes difficult to keep. Schools are looking to re-establish themselves in the eyes of their communities after a tough few years. Finding that “True Identity” of your school allows you to articulate precisely who you are and helps you relay those success stories while establishing a consistent message that everyone can tell in the most compelling fashion. 

John A. Jenson has spent the past 30 years helping organizations (and their leaders) present themselves to the world in the most effective manner. As the author of nine books, his focus has always centered on how a strong identity is a cornerstone to how people respond and connect to what you’re attempting to accomplish. John’s last five years have been spent developing a process that helps schools solidify their brand while creating more meaningful experiences for all stakeholders. Not only can you expect to gain great ideas, but you will be armed with enough information to go back and inspire real change. 
This session is provided with support from Jostens.


2.  Planning for Your Retirement
 Joel Craven, Owner, Astraios Financial

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 PM  |  Welcome Reception Sponsored by Lifetouch

February 8, 2024

7:30 - 8:15 AM  |  New Principals Breakfast  

If you are a new high school/middle school principal, please come to this informal breakfast to meet AWSA staff and other new and experienced leaders.


8:30 - 9:45 AM  |  Opening Keynote: To Love and to Serve: Student and Community Engagement

Hamish Brewer, Author

People just want to be seen, heard, and valued, creating a culture and environment that advocates and amplifies the stakeholder voice, opportunity and ownership of the journey, productivity, and results. Leaders, practices, and processes within the organization can stimulate or suppress the performance, culture, and outcomes for all. Hamish shows how a culture of love and service deeply engages stakeholders on multiple levels emotionally, physically, and intellectually to raise levels in culture, commitment, and performance across the organization. 



Hamish Brewer is a powerful and positive disruptor who transcends the status quo and typical norms in leadership and education.  Mr. Brewer has become globally recognized while inspiring, advocating and amplifying the voices of communities everywhere.  He built his reputation on results and performance, becoming affectionally known as the Relentless, Tattooed Skateboarding Principal with his galvanizing message to "Be Relentless" and his high-octane delivery style.

Mr. Brewer currently consults with businesses and organizations all around the world on leaderships, culture and organizational performance change and improvement. As a Beachheads advisor to the New Zealand Trade Enterprise, he also helps grow New Zealand businesses and advises on strategic development in the North American market place.

Mr. Brewer has served as an award-winning principal at both the secondary and elementary school levels. He was recognized as the NAESP Nationally Distinguished Principal and Virginia Principal of the Year. He has also been honored with the VAESP School Bell Award and ASCD Virginia Impact Award. Hamish was named a Northern Virginian of the year by Northern Virginia Magazine and Principal of the Year for the online national publication – Education Dive. Prince William County Public Schools named Hamish the school division's Principal of the Year and Hamish was recently recognized by Omega U as the Principal of the Year.


9:45 - 10:00 AM  |  Break and Opening of the Expo Hall

10:00 - 11:15 AM  |  Concurrent Sessions Round One 

1. I’m Here, But am I Engaged?
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA 

What would a highly engaged classroom look like? What is a highly engaged student doing?  As school leaders, it’s our responsibility to observe and provide feedback on student levels of engagement. We know it’s a predictor of student retention, student success, and also student satisfaction. Far too often, compliance is acknowledged as engagement. This session will focus on ensuring school leaders have the look fors and strategies for providing feedback on authentic student engagement so as to grow academic outcomes for the students we serve.

2. INsight & OUTreach: Achieving the Highest Levels of Access, Opportunity, and Success for Each Student
Brian Cox, Principal, Verona Area High School

Identifying and supporting students furthest from access is some of the most important work we do in public education. In this session, participants will hear how Verona Area High School is reducing the predictive power of demographics. The VAHS team has closed opportunity gaps by working with deeper insight (qualitative) data about students, gathering actionable data about the school’s climate, culture, beliefs, and practices, and utilizing proven outreach strategies to engage and encourage students. VAHS has a partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools and together, they are achieving the highest levels of access, opportunity, and success for each student.

3.  Force Multipliers for Your Leadership:  Leveraging and Aligning Your People, Purposes, and Aims
Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

Impactful organizations plan backward. They articulate their mission/vision, identify appropriate goals, and create a plan with key actions and activities that will support the goals Then they artfully clarify and align to these aims so that coherence and impact naturally result.  These concepts will come to life in examples from thought leaders like Elena Aguilar and Wisconsin administrators alike that will likely change forever how you develop and distribute leadership for impact across your school. This session will also provide time to begin applying what you learn into your own emerging model.

4. Tools and Tips for Communicating in Turbulent Times
Brian Nicol, Partner, Donovan Group

To say that we are living through a time of great change and political turbulence is an understatement. Despite the challenges of our time, we all know that effectively engaging students, staff, parents, and other stakeholders is vital for principals. How do we meaningfully create two-way conversations with our audiences that lead to authentic engagement and build trust? In this session, former teacher and administrator Brian Nicol will introduce a process and set of tools to thoughtfully engage all stakeholders. Participants are encouraged to bring their communications issues and questions to the session. 

5. Comprehensive School Safety

Trish Kilpin, Director, Department of Justice

Comprehensive School Safety includes both physical and psychological safety efforts. The Office of School Safety prioritizes prevention of school violence, and the use of specified interventions to promote recovery if a traumatic event does occur in a school. Best practice recommendations and free resources for SUSO threat reporting, Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM), Critical Incident Response and general school safety will be shared

6. Breaking Silos: Using Teacher Learning Walks and Cycles of Feedback Across Curriculum and Department Boundaries to Build a Collaborative Culture and Improve Teacher Effectiveness in our Schools

Jeremy Andersen, Principal, Big Foot School District

High School teachers are historically isolated, either by department, content area, or even in their own professional practices. Facilitating multiple cycles of teacher learning walks (peer observation and feedback) helps us break down those barriers, promotes better instructional strategies, and improves overall teacher effectiveness at Big Foot High School.  We believe that this process also reduces the isolation in professional learning and builds an opportunity for all teachers to be both leaders and learners in our building culture.  Participants will learn about our experiences using teacher learning walks and feedback cycles over the past 3 years and give you ideas for breaking down the silos at your school.

11:15 - 12:00 PM  |  Lunch & Secondary Principal of the Year

12:00 - 12:25 PM  |  Dessert with Exhibitors 

12:30 - 1:45 PM  |  Concurrent Sessions Round Two

1. Weaving Building Goals Into the Fabric of the Entire Community
Becky Newcomer, Principal, Hamilton High School

It is important that teachers know the goals of the school, and when students, parents, and the entire community can join in, the culture can begin to move with more speed and force. In every public move, there can be a reference to building goals. The more people hear it, the more they can contribute, and the more they can believe. It is important to reflect on current practices and how each constituency group (students, teachers, families, community) can become more aware of and engaged in supporting the building goals. (How are Faculty Meetings designed? How is the school presented in social media? What does 8th-9th grade transition look like? How is the goal reinforced throughout the year? How are Areas of Focus reflected in EE)? 

2. Moving the Needle: Designing Professional Learning that Improves Student Learning
Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

Professional development only matters if it translates from paper to practice, driving real improvements to student learning. This session will leverage proven approaches from thought leaders like Paul Bambrick-Santoyo and others that will help you determine where to focus professional learning, how to lead training, and, most importantly, how to make it stick, so that your professional learning genuinely changes classroom experiences and results. You will leave this session with applications to employ in your very next school meeting/learning session.


3. Stop Chasing the Walkie: Addressing Student Behaviors Through MLSS and Increasing Academic Achievement
Yaribel Rodriguez, Director of Urban Leadership, AWSA

Are you constantly being interrupted by the walkie or calls to address student discipline? Does student discipline prevent you from spending time in classrooms observing teaching/learning? If so, this session is for you. Leaders will explore how current systems and processes are contributing to the current state and explore how small changes can yield powerful results, allowing you to spend more time where it matters most, in the classroom observing teaching and learning. 

4. Keys to Staff Retention, Engagement and Growth

Jeff Wright, Superintendent, Sauk Prairie School District and Sarada Hanamadass Weber, Madison Metropolitan School District

Keep your fantastic teammates.  To support and retain your staff, build community, not committees.  Join our conversation about keys to staff retention, engagement, and growth and leave with strategies you can use right now.  Deliberate choices you make this winter and spring can reduce the turnover you will face next year.  Sarada and Jeff will bring their experience working together in Chicago high schools and separately in Madison and Sauk Prairie to explore what works in districts of all sizes. 


5. Leadership Support as a Top Priority in Employee Wellbeing

Karyn Richmond, Wellness Coordinator, Sun Prairie Area School District

School systems face a 3-part crisis: attracting and retaining top talent, rising teacher burnout and skyrocketing healthcare costs. Karyn Richmond, Wellness Coordinator of Sun Prairie Area School District will show school systems how to meet these challenges by fostering a thriving workforce. This presentation will demonstrate why leadership commitment is a crucial component of creating a sustainable wellbeing program that yields returns on investment. Top leadership support fosters a caring culture, which cascades into the classroom and is key to meeting school district human capital challenges. 

6. Khanmigo:  The Next Level in Educational Technology
Jason Feig, Khan Academy

Imagine a world where technology delivered on its promise to save you time.  When GPT-4 is carefully adapted to a learning environment like Khan Academy, it has enormous potential. AI can assist teachers with lesson planning, reviewing content, preparing different components of instruction, and creating engaging learning experiences for all students. Khan Academy has created Khanmigo, an AI tool designed to save valuable time so teachers can focus on what’s most important—their students. Join us to gain practical insights into how Khan Academy is leveraging AI to enhance instruction and create engaging learning experiences. Khan Academy is an IRS-recognized 501(c)3 not-for-profit (nonprofit) organization. Khan Academy materials are available for free at www.khanacademy.org.


1:45 - 2:05 PM  |  Break In Expo Hall 

2:05 - 3:20 PM  |  Concurrent Round Three

1. AI in Action for Secondary Leaders
Jason Rubo, Director of Technology, and Rita Mortenson, Educational Technology Coach, Verona Area School District

In August, AWSA began a three-part webinar series on harnessing the power of AI in day-to-day tasks, streamlining processes, unlocking insights from data, and directly supporting student success. Join the co-facilitators of this acclaimed series to learn how to use AI to save time, grow your impact, and better balance your work and private life. Whether you have never logged into ChatGPT or Bard or are already using these tools to draft correspondence, crunch data, and improve instruction, you will not want to miss this session.


2. Who Are We Great For?
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA 

When we ask ourselves, “Who is our school great for?” we want to be able to say, “EVERYONE”!  But the truth is, often there are students who have lagging skills or poor behavior responses, or simply are not successful showing us what they know. What will it take to change that? Universal instruction improvement is predicated on teams using collaborative time to learn, implement and study the impact of their practice and the engagement in their learning environment. This session will include a simulation of what we hope a grade level or department does when presented with data that suggests all students have not learned what we taught. Set aside what you know and come and see what’s possible!


3. Non-Negotiables for Creating a High Performing Middle School
Tony DeRosa, Director of Human Resources, Cedarburg School District, Dan Reinert, Principal and Nicole Ward, Associate Principal, Webster Middle School

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was a high performing middle school. With limited time, resources and locus of control, we want to share what we consider to be non-negotiables in creating a successful middle school. We will briefly share the journey of Webster Middle School over the past eleven years culminating by being recognized as a Model PLC school by Solution Tree in the Summer of 2022. The main areas that we will focus on are: Master Schedules, Staffing, Grading Reform (policies and procedures), MTSS/RTI Systems, and concrete PLC practices. In this 75 minute session, our goal is to provide you with resources and collaboration time to start drafting a plan on the next steps that make sense for your building. We encourage you to bring topic related materials to maximize our collaboration time. 


4. Restorative Practices: The Key Actions of School Leaders for Effective Implementation
Amy Starzecki, Superintendent, Superior School District     
The presentation is intended to provide a detailed information for school district leaders regarding the rationale for why change from traditional punitive discipline is needed, the definition of restorative practices, how restorative practices connects to district equity work, how it can be used as an alternative to exclusionary discipline, and ultimately, a summary of findings from a systematic review of existing research that outlines key actions of school principals to ensure effective implementation of restorative practices.


5. Culturally Responsive Teaching from Light to Right: Moving Beyond Relationships to Information Processing to Close Achievement Gaps
Yaribel Rodriguez, Director of Urban Leadership, AWSA

Zaretta Hammond states, "Our ultimate goal as culturally responsive teachers is to help dependent learners learn how to learn...The power of culturally responsive teaching to build underserved students' intellective capacity rests in its focus on information processing." However, most districts and schools stay stuck on the conditions necessary (relationships, safety, belonging) for learning to occur and "adding surface-level cultural details to low-level decontextualize activities," which do not build intellective capacity. In this session, we will focus on key strategies and practices that help build our students' intellectual capacity and help close persistent achievement gaps.     

4:30 - 5:30 PM  |  Reception Sponsored by Jostens 

February 9, 2024

7:15 - 8:15 AM  |  Optional Fellowship Breakfast 

Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

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 Wisconsin in this Christian fellowship breakfast option that, now in its sixth year, is proving for many to be an annual highlight of encouragement and assistance for the next leg of the leadership and life journey.

8:00 - 9:00 AM  |  Breakfast Program: Legislative Update

Dee Pettack, Executive Director, WI SAA

Dee Pettack will provide an update on issues of importance to middle and high school leaders and key ways you can positively impact legislation in Wisconsin.


9:15 - 10:30 AM | Concurrent Sessions Round Four

1. Individualizing the Institution: Unconventional Ways to Make Connections with Our Students
Jessica Cabeen, Principal, Alternative Educational Programs, Austin Public Schools

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller? Long, long gone are the days of desks in rows, sit and get experiences for our scholars at the secondary level. Opportunities to look at learning differently and link outcomes to high expectations and relevant post-secondary experiences are no longer nice, but absolutely necessary. In this session Jessica will share ground rules for getting more connected with our students, making collaboration more meaningful with our colleagues, and communicating high expectations and deep relationships with stakeholders. Through stories and examples, participants will walk away with a playlist they can take back and implement in their own classrooms in the fall and the excitement needed to re-engage and reimagine our own work in the process.


2. Transforming Learning through High Impact Leadership Teams
Rachel Rydzewski, Principal, and Lauren Scanlan, Muskego-Norway School District

Ever wonder if you have what it takes to truly be a transformative leader? I'd argue that none of us are equipped to do so on our own.  Instead, through a distributed leadership model, I've learned to invest in both the leadership development and strengths of those on our school's leadership team.  As a result, our school's leadership team engages in continuous improvement, drives decision making school wide, develops strategic actions aligned to school-wide goals, and lives out our school vision with joy and heart.  Come learn about my leadership journey as I've invested in the collective capacity of our school's leadership team to transform both culture and learning school wide. 

3. Leading Through Adversity: You as an Agent of Hope
Joe Schroeder, Associate Executive Director, AWSA

In challenging times, our ability to demonstrate hope in our own lives and build such capacity in others will be a key difference in the amount of positive influence we can generate. Research is clear that hope is not some starry-eyed distraction but rather an asset that can be both measured and used as one of the best predictors of future wellbeing. Thankfully, it turns out that hope at its essence is a way of thinking, which means that hope is something that can be taught and grown. In this session, we will focus on the three research-based components needed for building hope, provide examples of these components in use, and offer the opportunity to begin creating your own pathway forward to a preferred future.


4. A Dangerous Mismatch: High Praise for Low Impact
Tammy Gibbons, Director of Professional Learning, AWSA

This session will look at three scenarios and the impact of an observer/supervisor feedback. The purpose of analyzing feedback is essential in order for school leaders to have the kind of impact that engages teachers in thoughtful reflection. Feedback often affirms a practice that may indeed not be impactful on students but may leave a teacher feeling good about their practice.
Participants will analyze and discuss ways to be thoughtful observers who provide targeted, actionable feedback that moves the needle for kids while also validating the work of teachers today.


10:30 - 10:45 AM  |  Break 

10:45 - 11:45 AM  |  Closing Keynote: Expect the Best: Creating a High Performance Culture        

Jessica Cabeen, Principal, Alternative Educational Programs, Austin Public Schools

What does it take to learn and lead in schools today? Through research and her own practical examples of leading at every level of the K-12 educational system Jessica will share key ways to thrive in today’s classrooms and schools. Come ready to be motivated and inspired to connect to the calling to this work.

Jessica is the Principal of Alternative Education Programs and Austin Online Academy in Austin, Minnesota. Previously, she was the principal of Ellis Middle School in Austin, Minnesota, and the principal of the “Happiest Place in Southeastern Minnesota,” the Woodson Kindergarten Center. She has also been an assistant middle school principal, a special education assistant director, and special education teacher.

Jessica was named the 2021 ED Dive National Principal of the year, 2017 Minnesota National Distinguished Principal of the Year, and was awarded the NAESP/VINCI Digital Leader of Early Learning Award in 2016. She is a NAESP Middle Level Fellow and a Future Ready Principal. Jessica is the author of Hacking Early Learning and co-author of Balance Like a Pirate, Unconventional Leadership, Lead with Grace: Leaning into the Soft Skills of Leadership and Principal in Balance: Leading at Work and Living a Life(2023).

She is a sought-after speaker and trainer and enjoys getting to learn and lead with other educators across the nation. Jessica enjoys connecting and growing her Professional Learning Network (PLN) on social media. She can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @JessicaCabeen. 
But by far her favorite space is the one that involves being with her husband Rob, sons Kenny and Isaiah, and, of course, the family dog, Herman.

11:45 | Adjourn

Vendor Information 

Photo of Part of Vendor HallBooths for this year's 2024 Middle and High School Principals Convention are sold out! Please email [email protected] to be put on a waitlist.

Each year AWSA's Middle and High School Principals Convention brings in hundreds of administrators from across the state of Wisconsin. Vendors will have the opportunity to engage in unique face-to-face interactions throughout the convention. Table Top registration is $400. Advertising opportunities are also available.


Event Cancellation or Postponement
AWSA reserves exclusive right to modify, postpone/reschedule or cancel programs for any reason, including but not limited to emergency, inclement weather or other acts of God. If there is an event cancellation, every attempt will be made to reschedule and registration fees will be applied to the reschedule event dates. In the unlikely event of cancellation of an event, including inclement weather, the liability of AWSA is limited to the return of paid registration fees minus actual expenses. Cancellations of travel reservations and hotel reservations made directly with the hotel are the responsibility of the attendee.

Conventions, Conferences, and Workshop Cancellation Policy
A full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 calendar days prior to the start of the event. 9-3 calendar days prior to the start of the event will receive a 50% refund of the fees. After that date there will be no refunds. There is no refund for no-shows. *

Dietary Disclaimer
AWSA makes every effort to accommodate basic dietary needs such as vegetarian, gluten-free and basic food allergies. AWSA does not assume liability for adverse reactions to food consumed or items one may come into contact with while eating at an AWSA event. 

For questions about accessibility or to request special assistance during the event, please contact Kathy Gilbertson at [email protected]. Three weeks advance notice is required to allow us to provide seamless access. If you need to cancel the special request this must be done at least 3 working days prior to the start of the event. See registration cancellation policy on the event’s web page for how to cancel your conference registration.

*Refund fees retained by AWSA pay for your food guarantees, a/v equipment, meeting room rental and any hotel attritions caused by the cancellation.