Should AWSA Hold a PK-12 Convention? A Case Study in Competing Goals

by Jim Lynch, Executive Director, Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA)

Prior to 2011, AWSA offered a PK-12 Annual Convention every October during “teacher convention” days. Until that time, a majority of school districts scheduled a two-day holiday so that teachers could attend WEAC’s annual Convention. 

In 2011, after passage of Act 10, which significantly curtailed collective bargaining rights for most public employees, WEAC cancelled its annual convention.  In response, most school districts transitioned their schedules from the traditional holiday for teachers to attend the convention to in-district professional learning dates or regular class time. 

Thus, overnight, late October went from an ideal time to have a PK-12 Principals Convention to an almost impossible time for school leaders to be away from campus.  In response, AWSA stopped holding its October Convention and “beefed up” our grade-level conferences (Associate Principals in January, Elementary Principals in October and Middle and High School Principals in February). 

Attendance at the grade-level conferences has grown since 2011, however, many members have expressed an interest in returning to an all-member Convention.  In 2018, 64% of members stated that they would support merging the grade-level conferences into a PK-12 Convention.[1]  However, the calendar and competing goals make this transition difficult in the current environment. 

A large number of members feel that a PK-12 Principals Convention could only be held when school is not in session, as it would be difficult for districts to release school leaders from all their buildings while students are in session.[2]  This would mean that the PK-12 Convention would have to be scheduled during the summer months.

In 2019, AWSA joined the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, DPI and the CESA Statewide Network to transition three stand-alone professional learning activities into a coherently planned conference series called the Leading for Learning Series that first kicked off in June.  This approach was designed in response from school leaders encouraging state and regional organizations to better coordinate events.  In 2018, 74% of members stated that greater coherence between federal, state and local initiatives would decrease the complexity of their work and 64% stated that greater coherence between organizations serving educators would reduce job complexity.[3] 

Scheduling both the Leading for Learning Summit (for school and district teams) and the AWSA PK-12 Convention in the summer months is simply too tight to do both well. 

Therefore, after considering the implications of these competing goals and scheduling complexities with our Associate Principal, Elementary and Middle and High School Commissions we have decided to maintain separate grade-level conferences.  AWSA will continue to explore how the desire for a PK-12 Convention can be realized in the future. 

[1] 2018 AWSA Member Satisfaction Survey

[2] 2018 Member Satisfaction Survey: 40% believe K-12 Convention would need to be scheduled when students not in session.

[3] 2019 Professional Concerns Survey


Read more at:


Elementary Edition - Secondary Edition - District Level Edition