November 2017 Print

Welcome New Members

Long time MASSP members know that MASSP ensures that membership means being connected to colleagues all across the state.  We ensure your voice is heard regarding important policy decisions, and we keep you informed of important issues throughout the year.  Add to this our workshops and conferences that facilitate important face to face networking, and the resources of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and you have a recipe for success.  There are few dollars that our members spend that reap such concrete benefits.  Thanks for joining 650 colleagues across Maryland as members of MASSP.

Take advantage of that new membership by following us on Twitter @mdmassp.  Like us on Facebook (we post lots of pictures here), and register for one or more of our workshops throughout the year.  NASSP has the best leadership journal around. 

But possibly most importantly, we thank our new folks for joining your colleagues across the state as a collective and unified voice for school administrators.  Legislators in Annapolis, State Board of Education members, and MSDE staff seek out our input on all issues related to our schools.  MASSP is a critical stakeholder

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President's Report

I ran across this quote on a colleague’s desk.  It reminded me why I decided teaching was the profession I wanted to pursue.  It is titled “Teacher and Child” by Dr. Hiam Ginott.

“I have come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  I can humiliate or humor, hate or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized,”

I do not know of very many children who were not excited about starting school for the very first time.  Yet, something happened along the way between those first days of elementary school to the first day of high school.  “Anxiety, and school phobia” are the latest issues that school counselors, parents, teachers, and administrators are dealing with.

This brings to mind another quote from John Quincy Adams. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are a leader.”  As school administrators we can influence our teachers to provide that positive environment for learning.  Building a relationship of trust with students will help them thrive.  If students feel safe at school they can achieve great things.

As your MASSP president, I wish you well and hope you have a great school year.  

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Calendar of Events

MASSP/MAESP Spring Conference featuring Rick Wormeli

March 15 - 17, 2018 at the Cambridge Hyatt


Spring Aspiring Leaders Workshop

Saturday, February 17, 2018 at Century High School


We hope to hold a workshop regarding NASSP's new suite of PD products--Building Ranks sometime in the spring.  Stay tuned!


MASSP Executive Board meeting dates


All MASSP members are invited to exec board meetings.  Each one is announced via email a week in advance.  We always begin with a full breakfast at 8:30 AM


November 18, 2017 at Pikesville High in Baltimore County

February 10, 2018 at Arundel Middle School in Anne Arundel County

March 15, 2018 in Cambridge at 5:00 PM prior to the start of the spring conference

May 12, 2018 at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore City

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Ass't Principal Highlights

This year's AP conference was a great success.  We had a great conference committee depicted to the right.  They made sure the conference ran smoothly and also assisted in judging Assistant Principal of the Year applications.  

Keynote speaker Jason Markey was enjoyed by all.  His presentation was practical and engaging.  In addition, we had seven concurrent sessions that all received very good reviews.  

The only drawback was fairly low turnout.  For sure everyone who attends finds the conference valuatble, but our forty attendees was the smallest crowd in recent memory.  We have gone from almost 100 participants four years ago to forty this year.  If anyone has any ideas as to why this is the case and how we might run a conference that attracts a broad range of AP's from around the state, we are ALL EARS!


Congratulations to Jason Arnold and Kim Stem, from Carroll County and Gary Wasielewski from Harford County who each will receive a stipend to support school improvement and professional development initiatives.


Jason will purchase "Teach Like a Champion Plug and Play" resources. These are PD packages that include everything you need to conduct specific PD for certain Techniques or groups of Techniques from the book.  His school  has already conducted some intensive PD with this resource with amazing results, so this stipend will enable the school to explore the resources in greater depth.


Kim Stem will use her stipend to help her partially fund attendance at this years National Principals Conference in Chicago.  


Gary Wasielewski will use his stipent to partially fund his attendance at the ASCD 2018 Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy.  It is being held January 21-23 in Washington, DC.  The institute combines sessions, guest speakers and the opportunity to meet with members of Congress to discuss key educational issues


A few more pics from the conference are shown below:





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Debra O'Byrne from Glenwood Middle in Howard County named Ass't Principal of the Year

AP of the Year Debra O'Byrned shown with her principal, Robert Motley


Ms. Debra O’Byrne, pictured to the right with her principal, Robert Motley, is an assistant principal at Glenwood Middle School in Howard County, Maryland.  Growing up in Pennsylvania, Debra attended Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pennsylvania earning a Bachelor of Education.  While attending Kutztown University, Debra completed her student teaching under the supervision of Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln, England.  Debra also holds a Masters of Science in Administration and Supervision from Johns Hopkins University as well as a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership for Changing Populations from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.  In 1995, she was awarded Howard County’s Best – Teacher of the Year.  In addition, she has been nominated and recognized several times by the Howard County Special Education Community Advisory Committee.  


Debra started her teaching career in 1991 for the Baltimore City Public Schools at Lyndhurst Elementary School where she taught second and third grade.  In 1993, she moved to Howard County Public Schools to teach fifth grade at Waverly Elementary school.  After teaching fifth grade for several years, she had the privilege to be appointed the fifth grade team leader of a newly opening, Ilchester Elementary School in 1996.  During her tenure teaching fifth grade, Ms. O’Byrne wrote curriculum and assessments for fifth grade science.  In August of 1999, Ms. O’Byrne transferred to Mount View Middle School to teach sixth grade science until she was appointed assistant principal in 2003.  She has served as assistant principal at Ellicott Mills Middle School, Mount View Middle School, and Glenwood Middle School.  Currently as a member of the MASSP Executive Board, Ms. O’Byrne serves as the Middle School Representative.  She prides herself on being a champion for the implementation of Restorative Practices at Glenwood Middle school which promotes student voice, improves relationships and enhances academics.


Outside of school, Debra is an active community volunteer teaching religious education, and working with the aquatic program division of Special Olympics.  She has coached girls’ basketball and field hockey.  Debra is the mother of two teenage girls and enjoys spending time with her family.  She also enjoys traveling and is an avid Baltimore Ravens fan.     

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Long range planning for MASSP Executive Director

I did quite a bit of long range planning in preparation to apply for and actually get the nod to become MASSP's Executive Director.  This job is absolutely perfect for someone not looking to fully retire yet keep their hand in state and national educational issues.  It approaches a full time job at certain times of the year, while at other times in is just about a half-time job.  


If June, 2019 is a date you might consider leaving the principalship or assistant principalship, and you think you might be interested, give Scott Pfeifer a call.  This is NOT a job advertisement.  Rather, it is a talent spotting activity.  More than likely the board will decide to advertise the position in the fall, 2018.  I look forward to chatting with anyone who might be interested.

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Executive Director Report

Thanks to all who have renewed your membership.  Are all the administrators in your building ALSO members?  Please invite them to join if not.  Personal invitations brought most of us into this organization.  The AP conference was a success, though we registered the smallest number of participants ever--38.  We cancelled the McTighe workshop.  This is indeed sad as Jay is without question Maryland's leading education consultant.  But we do have a good crowd signed up for our aspiring leaders workshop--good news.  


If you have any ideas for programs that are sure to attract individuals to leave their bulding for a day, please let me know.  And don't forget to mark March 15 - 17 for the spring conference.  


Finally, those who know me know I am an advanced planner.  My current plan is to remain MASSP exec if the board wants me, through June, 2019.  Anyone out there planning to retire at that time and if so, might you be interested in becoming the MASSP executive director?  The board will set the starting salary at that time, but I would expect it to be between $45,000 and $50,000.  It is a great job for those with plenty of energy who want to stay close to educational issues in Maryland.


Give me, Scott Pfeifer, a call if you would like more information.  This is NOT a job advertisement in any way.  Rather, it is my effort to engage in some talent spotting for our organization.  Hope everyone has a great holiday season.


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Christine Handy Collins assumes the NASSP presidency in Chicago



Christine Handy from Gaithersburg High School will chair all the general sessions in Chicago.  We hope to hold a president's reception for her at some point.  We are so VERY proud of her accomplishment and I know she will do Maryland proud.

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2018 National Principals Conference is in Chicago July 11-13

Our national principals conference will be a "secondary only" conference.  We won't join again with the elementary school group for a couple years.  But you will love Chicago.  I believe NASSP has already sent out early registration emails.  

Best of all, Maryland can celebrate Christine Handy becoming the NASSP president.  She is the third Marylander to fill this role, with Walt Potter and Cecil Short preceding her.  Did you know that NASSP has only had two African American presidents in their long history and both hail from our state.  


Hope to see you in Chicago

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Federal Grass Roots Network in Action on Capitol Hill

Take your advocacy efforts to the next level


As a school leader, you advocate on behalf of your students and staff every day with the decisions you make. We need you to share your expertise and on-the-ground experiences with policymakers so they are better informed when making decisions on education policy. If advocacy is especially important to you, one way for you get more involved is to join the NASSP Federal Grassroots Network!


NASSP's Federal Grassroots Network brings together individuals who want to build close relationships with their members of Congress to inform them about how policies they create in Washington impact education in their districts and states. Members of the FGN can tap into the following resources:

  • A community of advocates who commit to regularly meeting with their federal representatives to discuss state and federal policies that will benefit schools and students nationwide
  • A monthly FGN email newsletter highlighting recent changes in federal education policy
  • Weekly advocacy update blog posts on the School of Thought blog with the latest news and resources regarding federal education policy
  • The opportunity to attend the annual NASSP Advocacy Conference, a unique event that brings like-minded education professionals together to share ideas and discuss the top education policy issues of the day
  • Resources to become more effective advocates at all levels of government, including a basic guide on advocating on behalf of schools and principals

There has never been a more crucial time for you to voice your insight on effective school leadership and education policy. Join NASSP's Federal Grassroots Network today at the NASSP website

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Much to talk about at State Board of Education meetings

At the last state board meeting, big decisions were made regarding PARCC tests and cut scores.  Hope you find the narrative below useful, even if it is a bit dense.  The final vote to keep cut scores reasonable was split 6-3.  That doesn't often happen.  But clearly this board IS going to consider differentiating diplomas in our state, and you can FULLY expect the Bridge Program to undergo significant changes.


MSDE recommended that the passing score in Algebra and English 10 be set at 725 which is a “3” in the PARCC system, and is NOT indicated as college and career ready.  That would apply for a cohort graduating in 2023-2024 (current sixth graders), and these students would have been exposed to the common core curriculum for ALL of their school years.  


The board chair indicated he wanted to set the standard higher, which indicates college and career ready, and if that means MANY students do NOT get a diploma, so be it.  Another  board member advocated for more than one diploma—one college and career ready, and another diploma that excludes assessments.  This mirrors what has happened in New York, where board member Steiner was actually the state superintendent when the regulation was adopted


At this point, the board received a description of the bridge plan process, from start to finish


One board member interpreted the information that almost all students who attempt bridge actually succeed at bridge means that graduation through the bridge project does NOT indicate meeting a standard.  Rather, it is a gauge of persistence—remaining in school.


One board member is an advocate for special needs students—she expressed support for the bridge plan as a valid alternative to testing.  Her comment was echoed by a second board member.  This African American board member, however, called into question WHY African American students are so OVERREPRESENTED among the population that completes a bridge plan.  Ditto for another board member.  He called for adding value to the bridge plan.


Dr. Finn suggested agreeing with recommendation of staff to keep 725 will the current sixth grade graduates in 2023-2024.  Then it would go to 750


Another member called for a standard diploma, but add multiple endorsements to that diploma.


The board took a vote.  Agreement was that 725 is standard till 2023-2024, when the standard becomes 750.  The vote was 6-3 in favor.  THIS IS A VERY GOOD DECISION FOR MARYLAND'S STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND ADMINISTRATORS.

Board agreed to make no decision regarding alternatives (i.e. to change/alter bridge) but did agree to investigate ways to make bridge/alternative pathways to the diploma more rigorous. There was agreement that the current bridge program WILL/MUST change.  Vote was unanimous with one absention

It was also moved to have staff bring forward options for adding diploma endorsements at some point in the future.  Idea is to make the diploma more meaningful.  Board did NOT endorse this idea, only to have staff bring forward ideas and plans.


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Earn a cash reward for member recruitment!

Can you use and extra $25?  Recruit a new member to NASSP/MASSP, email exec Scott Pfeifer when you do, and when we receive a membership check or notice of payroll deduction, we will send YOU a check for $25.  How simple!  But it requires focus on you, our existing members, part.  So spread the word.  Be an MASSP ambassador.  In unity there is strength, and we become a more effective voice for administrators around the state when more folks join us.  Membership has increased these past three years, but we can do better.  But the secret to success rests with YOU, our current members.  Help us spread the word and earn cash for your effort.

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Is Your School Better Because You Lead It?

Is Your School Better Because You Lead it?  by Baruti K. Kafele

To answer this question, you must establish your leadership identity, mission, purpose, and vision.

For the past year, I have been conducting a workshop with school leaders called “Is my school a better school because I lead it?’’ I typically have my audiences reflect on this question and prompt them to point to evidence that supports their contentions.  Then I ask whether they feel their staff would have similar perceptions.  I often have to force myself to leave this question at some point during the workshop because it alone can generate enough reaction and lively discussion to fill up an entire day.

     That being said, it’s a very difficult question to answer, and school leaders are initially hesitant to address it publicly.  There’s a vulnerability with this question.  It takes courage and honesty to answer – both for leaders who feel that their school is, in fact, a better place because they lead it and for leaders who feel that their leadership is not the difference maker it should be. After I pose the question, I can tell that participants are engaged in deep reflection; it just takes time for them to open up and reveal their responses.

     During a workshop I conducted in the Southeast, a principal shared with the group that he felt strongly his school was better off because of his leadership. He provided solid evidence, such as a dramatic increase in assessment scores and a significant improvements in the school’s overall climate and culture.  In contrast, at a school in the Midwest, one principal emotionally shared that she needed to do more and didn’t feel that her leadership was making the impact it could.  She said that the question was helpful because it provided her with a continual prompt for self-reflection.

     So, I ask you, is your school a better school because you lead it?  Are your students in a better position to succeed because you steer the ship?  Will your teachers experience exponential professional growth because you lead them?  The answers to these questions are related to your overall leadership effectiveness, including your leadership identity, mission, purpose, and vision.  Let’s explore each.


Leadership Identity

Think about professionals who wear a uniform for their work---firefighters, pilots, chefs, and athletes, for example.  When we see these individuals out of uniform, we generally know nothing about what they do professionally or how effectively they do it.  When they put on their uniforms, everything changes. We know what they do, which leads us to have expectations about how well they do their work.  We expect the firefighter to extinguish fires, the pilot to fly the plane safely, the chef to prepare excellent food, and the athlete to compete to win.  In other words, their uniforms give them a professional identity.

     Although you likely don’t wear a uniform as a principal your leadership identity works in a similar way.  First and foremost, principals must have a firm grasp of who they are as leaders before they walk into the school building each day.  Away from school, you are who you are relative to your home life, family, friends, interests, and hobbies.  These assets make up your personal identity.  But your personal identity is not necessarily your leadership identity.  It may inform your leadership identity to some extent, but it’s not who you are as the leader of your school.

     As you transition every morning from who you are at home to who you are at work, what exactly are you transforming into as your school’s leader?  What is your identity?  What does your presence mean in the eyes of your students, staff, parents, and the community?  When your students and staff see or think of you, what comes to mind?  Does your leadership identity affect the climate, culture, and achievement in your school?  Is how you see yourself consistent with how others view you?

     These questions mattered to me when I led schools over the years.  In my capacity as principal, I wore an assortment of hats, but at my core, I was a motivator.  I saw inspiring and “firing up” my students and staff as my essence.  It was my reputation and what my presence represented.  I knew that many of my students came to school each day with challenging realities going on at home.  I had to ensure that the day always started with an inspiring and empowering morning message to lay a solid foundation for the day by setting a positive tone.  Going back to the central question at hand.  I am well aware that my role as a motivator made a significant impact on who we were as a school and the results we achieved. 

     There is no right answer to these questions about identity.  The important thing is that you explore them and gain clarity on your role.

It’s imperative that you make your mission clear and specific and that you “walk in it” daily.

At a recent workshop with rural and urban principals one principal determined that she was a nurturer.  Nurturing her students was a priority for her, and she devoted a tremendous amount of energy to playing this role for every student in her elementary school.  The principal hoped that every one of her 500 students saw her as a nurturer.  She felt strongly that her leadership identity played a significant part in creating a positive, warm school climate and culture.

Leadership Mission

With all that is on your plate, what’s the one thing you feel you must absolutely accomplish?  What drives you above all else and keeps you up at night?  What is your leadership mission?

     My mission began as an undergraduate student when the plight of black male grade school students became an area of concern for me.  I knew I wanted to influence this specific population, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing so.  A couple of years later, I decided I would make that impact as a classroom teacher.  I eventually became a 5th grade teacher in a predominately black school and focused on helping my boys make the transition from being young males to young men.  I taught them the standards and criteria for earning the distinction of being called men.

      Several years later, I because an assistant principal and subsequently a principal.  Once again, I focused on the young men in my school.  It became my mission to defy the stereotypes of black males from urban communities.  I intentionally set out to show our young men that they were scholars in every sense of the word.  They were what I was about and what drove me.

     Do you have a leadership mission, and does it drive what you say and do?  It‘s imperative that you make your mission clear and specific and that you “walk in it” daily.  In a recent conversation, an urban principal in the Midwest told me that his mission was to prove that his inner-city, under-served students of color could achieve at the highest levels.  He passionately explained to me that he would not allow poverty to be an excuse for himself, his students, his staff, or his students’ parents.  He was on a mission to show the world that despite poverty, his students were going to soar high.

Leadership Purpose

If your leadership mission is your “what” (as in, “What is your work about?”), then your leadership purpose is your “why” (as in, “Why do you do it?”).  My mission was to improve outcomes for black males.  Why did I want to do that?  My purpose was to empower these young people.  I saw what was happening to so many of them across the United States, including massive under-achievement and high suspension, dropout, and incarceration rates.  I was determined to be part of the solution. I wanted to present a different reality at my school—and I did because my leadership mission had a purpose behind it.

     What is your purpose?  Why specifically do you do this work?  Why did you make the decision to lead a school?  Like your mission, your “why” drives what you say and do daily.  I don’t have to tell you about the enormous challenges of this work, which can become very frustrating.  Your purpose keeps you focused on the mission at hand.

     An urban principal from the Northeast recently confessed to me that she had led her school for years devoid of a “why.”  She hadn’t considered a “why” until she heard me speak about it in a workshop and decided to develop her leadership purpose.  She explained that more than 75 percent of her students read below grade level by the time they reached 3rd grade.  Her mission was to ensure that all of these students ended up reading at grade level.  Her work was driven by a purpose: She knew that literacy skills have lifelong implications for her students.  The principal told me emphatically that her work was much more than a job—it was her reason for walking into the building every morning.  Consequently, data now show that her school is on its way to making her mission a reality.

Leadership Vision

Finally, what is your vision for your leadership and school?  As a leader, how will your skills evolve?  How will you improve and become more effective as a leader one year from today?  What will this improvement look like?  Your leadership vision is a crucial component of your overall effectiveness.  As an example, my leadership vision was to improve in all aspects of school leadership, but particularly as an instructional leader. I knew that as I grew instructionally, both my staff and students would benefit.

     It’s equally essential to have a vision for your school.  Where will your school be in five years as a result of your direction?  Although your school’s vision statement is important, that’s not what I’m referring to here.  I’m talking about your personal vision for your school.  To what heights will it rise because you are at the helm?  In what way will it distinguish itself from other schools?

     The vision of the principal matters because before you can think realistically about what your school can accomplish, you must already have a vision for what it will accomplish.  For instance, one principal I’m currently working with has a vision for all of her seniors to be accepted into four-year colleges.  When she assumed the leadership of the school three years ago, only 42 percent of seniors were college bound, leading skeptics to call her vision unrealistic.  Today, 77 percent of her students are headed to college—in large because of her vision for the school.

Leading with Confidence

“Is my school a better school because I lead it?”  It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily.  To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school.  These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going.  They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place.  You must lead your school with the confidence to say, “Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.” And when you do, students win.


Baruti K. Kafele ( is an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey and a current education consultant. He is also the author of several books, including The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence (ASCD, 2016) and The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence (ASCD, 2015). Follow him on Twitter.

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Thanks so MASSP Major Sponsor AXA

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Legislation update

There was great expectation the the Kirwan Commission report would take up lots of talk in Annapolis this spring.  However, the Kirwan Commission announced last week that it will be delaying the release of its recommendations until after the 2018 legislative session.  So what does this mean for education issues?  Hard to tell.  We can certainly expect that MSEA will continue to exert its influence again this year which was fully on display last year with their advocacy of the "Save our Schools Act" which ended up being critical in shaping Maryland's ESSA Accountability Plan.  


Stay tuned for the January newsletter when we can provide you more detailed information regarding the upcoming legislative session.

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