January 2018 Print

Spring conference NOT TO BE MISSED

Few have been involved in MASSP as long as exec Scott Pfeifer--But he knows one thing for sure--insights gained both formally and informally at the MASSP spring conference were CRITICAL in helping him become an effective principal.  You can only test this theory for yourself by jumping in.  Why not THIS year.  See description below:


1) We join once again with MAESP.  We have a joint exhibit hall with our traditional reception along with our exhibitors hosted by Jostens from 6:45 till 8:45 on Thursday evening.  Can you get to Cambridge early?  Meet with state superintendent Karen Salmon for an interactive session at 5:30 PM.

2) We have a full breakfast for participants this year on Friday morning.  Rick Wormeli will provide the keynote focusing on "motivating teachers to shift their classroom culture."  He will follow up with a presentation on Grading and Assessment in a smaller group.  Finally, after lunch, Rick offers a one hour session he titles "Principles First, Strategies Second: Minimizing our Hypocrisies"  If you have never heard Rick, check out this sample video to hear his insightful message:


3) After the keynote, participants have a wide range of options for Concurrent Sessions.  You can choose to hear Wormeli on Grading and Assessment, OR you can choose from an array of 12 different concurrent sessions.  

4) The MASSP lunch and business meeting takes place at 12:30, ending with dessert in the exhibit hall to encourage interaction with our exhibitors. (Wormeli's afternoon session and more concurrent sessions follows this)

5) Lifetouch and Balfour sponsor our pre-banquet reception, the banquet follows where we honor our Principals of the Year.  The evening closes with drinks sponsored by Edmentum

6) An optional breakfast takes place on Saturday morning, but whether you choose to pay for the breakfast or not, all are invited to hear NASSP president Dan Kelly share his presentation on social media in schools, with a focus on Twitter.  The conference ends here prior to noon.

Rooms at the Hyatt are limited and must be booked by February 22, 2018 to ensure you get the conference rate of $155 per night which is a significant discount over the normal Hyatt Rate of $200. 

Use this link to access that rate: https://aws.passkey.com/go/2017MDAssnSecondarySchool 


Check out a great array of concurrent sessions selected by our spring conference Committee:

1) Steve Bounds from MABE once again presents "Hot Legal Topics for School Administrators"
2) Creating a Trauma Informed School and the Use of Mindfulness--Carroll County
3) Technology Integration to Promote Student Engagement from Prince Georges County
4) Dave Volrath, formerly from MSDE presents "Practicing Standards-Based Leadership
5) Insights from Principals of the Year, presented by Sandra Reid and George Lindley
6) How to Use Positivity to Reduce Negativity -- Washington County
7) Closing the Achievement Gap in Middle School -- Howard County
8) Using Walk-Through Data to Drive Meaningful PD for staff -- Calvert County
9) You Can't Lead if you Don't have Followers:  The intersection of Soft Skills and PositionalPower -- Anne Arundel

10) Engaging Resistant Teachers in Their Professional Growth -- Prince Georges County
11) Instructional Culture: Fostering Engagement through Career Pathway Planning--Carroll
12) Technology Solutions addressing Restorative Justice and In School Suspension--EvolutionLabs, an MASSP


The golf outing Cost is $52 for greens fees, and we will gather together for lunch at the golf course grill, each person pays for their own lunch

Anyone interested should send MASSP an email.  No advanced payment necessary.  Folks will pay at the course


$290.00 Basic conference registration, includes all meals except Saturday breakfast


Back to top

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 www.facebook.com/mdmassp (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



Back to top

Executive Director Report

The 17-18 school year has been fillled with some highs and lows for MASSP.  Good news is we are welcoming ALL the secondary administrators in Cecil County to our membership rolls.  Bad news is that quite of few of our members are choosing NOT to renew.  I surmise that one reason for this is the lack of Title IIa funding flowing from the federal government that supports membership renewal in several districts.  Please recruit a fellow administrator from your district!


Good news is that our Aspiring Leaders workshoop for prospective administrators is a big hit.  Our twice yearly workshop continues to have excellent support.  But the bad news is that our other workshop are NOT doing as well.  Our AP conferences was quite successful from a program standpoint, but we had the lowest attendance we have had in the past 5 years.  And we had to cancel our workshop with Jay McTighe--so sad given what an excellent resource he is for Maryland educators.  


Please value your own professional development and take the time and find the resources to attend our spring conference in March.  Rick Wormeli is the best, we join once again with our elementary school colleagues, the Hyatt is a super venue, and the line up of concurrent sessions is awesome.


Next year is my last year as exec.  I am trying to do some talent spotting.  This is a GREAT job for someone ready to retire from the principalship or assistant principalship but NOT yet ready to stop working.  There are weeks this is a full time job, some parts of the year are half time.  Call me if you would like to learn more.  We will advertise and accept applications beginning next fall, with someone being named in the spring with a start date of July 1, 2019.


Now that our ESSA plan is finalized and accepted, the biggest educational issue on the horizon is the Graduation Task Force appointed by our state superintendent.  We have two reps on the task force to ensure MASSP's voice is heard.  All issues are on the table including whether or not to require a certain PARCC test score to earn a diploma, definition of a credit, how many will be required and what they will be, and probably most importantly, whether Maryland will continue issuing a single diploma vs. differentiated diplomas ala New York state.  MASSP will monitor this group closely and we will issue periodic updates to members via email.  Our spring exec board meeting May 12 in Baltimore City will focus on this topic.  Given the conservative nature of our current state board, who ultimately controls all of these issues at this time portends change.  Stay tuned.

Back to top

Greetings from President Elect Stephanie Farmer

I am extremely excited about collaborating with President Julie Janowich to learn the role of President of the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals. My passion to support administrators in this work makes me extremely delighted to be a part of this association. It is with great pleasure that I labor to support the vision and assist with its’ implementation.  My year will also be used to become familiar with the programs of the Association and its governances. I also look forward to assisting with setting direction, following the vision and mission and assisting with strategic planning and improve service to benefit tomorrow’s leaders. It will also be an honor to represent the association at various affiliate and professional events. Again, I look forward to working under the guidance of Scott Pfeifer, Executive Director and Julie Janowich, President.



In my twelve years as a school administrator, both assistant principal and principal, the role has grown more complex as the years have progress. In the past, we were considered building managers, disciplinarians, instructional leaders, team builders and coaches. This is just a few of the hats administrators wear daily to create a productive and safe learning environment for students and staff.  Research has shown that the role of the administrator has shifted and now we must operate as an agent of visionary change to improve student and school outcomes. This includes creating a school environment that allows the student and teacher to flourish in an ever changing educational landscape.


As administrators, we must embrace our roles and find that balance to ensure student success. This work includes meeting student’s needs and meeting both state and federal government requirements. As I reflect on this work daily, I often ask myself why and most days, I struggle with how to meet the shifting demands of education.  I find myself pondering over my new role and recognizing the following:


  I must……

Ø  Embrace that I am an education reformer

Ø  Understand that this work is a paradigm shift

Ø  Think like a visionary

Ø  Develop a drive to advocate

Ø  Act with integrity


I realize that this work can only be done with dedicated administrators such as yourselves.  It will also need supports from the district, executive level leadership and superintendents. Administrators are the face of education.  We are the change agents. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride as your change the lives of many students every day.


Stephanie Farmer, President Elect

Back to top

Calendar of Events

February 10 - Exec Board meeting at Arundel Middle School focusing on School Climate Survey Development


February 17 - Aspiring Leaders workshop at Century High School


March 15 - 17 - MASSP spring conference sponsored by AXA at the Cambridge Hyatt


April 21 - Blended Instructiion featuring Jason Green at the Applied Physics Lab.


The workshop above is hot off the press.  Jason was a dynamic speak for MASSP in September, and he will expand that presentation to a full half Day.  Many thanks to Sponsor McGraw Hill Education for bringing Jason back.  See description below


One of the greatest challenges districts are facing in successfully transitioning to 21st century learning environments is how to effectively achieve buy-in from educators and help teachers and leaders build new instructional skills required for today’s classrooms. Traditional models of professional development are outdated. Deeper work is required to shift mindset and culture. This session will explore key characteristics and strategies of building capacity for sustained 21st century learning environments.


May 12 - Exec Board Meeting at Vivien T Thomas Medical Arts Academy in Baltimore City focusing on the graduation task force


We may have one final workshop.  I am in negotiations with NASSP for a workshop focusing on an overview of their new suite of professional development products, "Building Ranks."

Back to top

Graduation task force begins work

Now that our ESSA plan is finalized and accepted, the biggest educational issue on the horizon is the Graduation Task Force appointed by our state superintendent.  We have two reps on the task force to ensure MASSP's voice is heard, Marc Cohen from Seneca Valley High School and Ken Goncz from Liberty High.  All issues are on the table including whether or not to require a certain PARCC test score to earn a diploma, definition of a credit, how many will be required and what they will be, and probably most importantly, whether Maryland will continue issuing a single diploma vs. differentiated diplomas ala New York state.  MASSP will monitor this group closely and we will issue periodic updates to members via email.  Our spring exec board meeting May 12 in Baltimore City will focus on this topic.  Given the conservative nature of our current state board, who ultimately controls all of these issues at this time, it seems likely some significant change could occur that would impact graduation rates.  Stay tuned.

Back to top

National Principals Conference 2018


Chicago is a new town for the NASSP Conference.  If you have never visited, you are in for a treat.  Arrive early/extend your stay to bookend what promises to be a super conference.


MASSP is working on holding another state dinner, celebrating NASSP President Christine Handy.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile, make sure you complete your registration and housing arrangements.  See you there.

Back to top

Legislative Update and Kirwan Commission

The legislature is just getting started.  Typically in an election year, the legislature avoids major issues, and this one is no different.  Here is the MASSP take on things:


1) We join with the school board's association in supporting full funding of the education budget, both operational and school facilities.  It is unclear how generous the Governor will be on these issues until he releases his current budget.


2) MASSP strongly opposes both legislative initiatives on education currently being pursued by the governor.  The Protect our Students act is designed to repeal last year's Protect our Schools act which ensured that Maryland's ESSA plan (recently approved by the feds) was reasonable and did NOT overly focus on test scores.  This initative by the governor is purely political, given the support last year for the Protect our Schools act was so strong it overrode the governor's veto


3) MASSP also opposes the governor's proposed legislation, The Accountability in Education Act of 2018 to create an Office of the State Education Investigator General, which will be an independent unit within the Maryland State Department of Education.  Again, like his other proposal, this is highly political, seeking to target Baltimore City and Prince Georges County in light of recent events in those districts.  There are already plenty of checks and balances in place to hold school districts accountable without resorting to such draconian state oversight.


4) We expected this session to spend time responding to the Kirwan commission.  As you probably know, that group deferred their final report till AFTER the session ends.  Given that it is an election year, this makes perfect sense.  Follow the link below for an excellent summary of the draft report.  


Kirwan Commission draft report




Back to top

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

Back to top

Who Wants to be the Next MASSP Executive Director in 2019?

Executive Director Scott Pfeifer hopes the Executive Board allows him to remain executive director through June, 2019.  Might YOU be interested in taking on that role at that time?  Call Scott Pfeifer to learn more about the job.  


The job is perfect for someone old enough to retire from full time work but young and energetic enough to ensure that MASSP serves as an important voice and resource for school administrators.  At certain times it approximates a fuill time job.  At other times, it is much less than that.  However, at all times of the year the executive director represents MASSP around the state, assists members on a variety of tasks, and promotes the MASSP mission and goals.  


Based on the desire of the Board, MASSP will open the application process in the fall, 2018

Back to top

Thanks so MASSP Major Sponsor AXA

Back to top

Leading for equity through openly addressing issues of injustice and race.

(This article co-authored by a Baltimore City Principal appeared in a recent educational journal.  It's message seems particularly appropriate these days)

Good leaders build their capacity to lead for equity, including openly addressing issues of injustice and race.


     In April, 2015, in the eerie silence before riots erupted in reaction to Freddie Gray, Jr’s death, Danique, principal of Baltimore’s City Neighbors High School (and coauthor of this article), felt as if his greatest fears as a school leader were coming to life before his eyes.  In reaction to an incident seen as unjust, anger and hatred were brewing and spreading throughout Baltimore.  Danique wanted his school to be an oasis of peace within the city.  But he now faced the reality that events beyond his control were unfolding in ways that would seriously affect the school and his students.  A collective fury that would literally ignite the city was rising. 

     There were no fire drills or lockdown procedures to help Danique deal with the inflamed emotions in the air that spring day.  Although he was able to ensure that all his students got home safely, he knew he’d have much more work to do once they returned.  To know what to do during the days of the riots and beyond, Danique had to figure out what to pay attention to.  Students and staff members, would need healing and direction.  They would need to become a community that would listen to and learn from one another---while continuing their planned academic work.  Danique knew that to do those things successfully, he would have to face the fire---the fire of inequity in Baltimore and people’s anger about it.  He would have to keep the emotional flame surrounding this inequity under control without putting it out.  That meant he’d have to lead the school in talking about injustice—and race.


The Fire of Candid Discussion

     Like many educators, we like to talk about race—sometimes.  And frankly, sometimes we don’t.  We don’t have much patience for talking about race without a purpose.  But we don’t have a lot of patience for avoiding talking about race if that avoidance gets in the way of learning.

     School leaders need to create learning environments where all learners can bring their full selves to school.  In our experience, that means making it possible for people to talk about the range of identities they hold, including racial identity.  When a school community faces situations of injustice—around race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or other difference—the goal should be to not just discuss the matter, but also learn through it.

     Opportunities for discussing equity and race should be respected and used like fire.  They strengthen a school when used correctly, even when temperatures rise; but if mishandled or manipulated, they can burn our whole house down.  We share here ways leaders can foster discussions about equity that are more like a candle in the dark than a wildfire.


Light the Fame with Students

     One of the best ways to build your school’s capacity around issues of equity is to start by tending the fire in students.  When students are encouraged to talk and take action around subjects they care about, authentic learning happens.  Many students feel inequities deeply and love to take them on.  But first, you must be willing to allow such hot topics to enter the school’s space constructively.  All the ways you already gather students---homeroom/advisory, classrooms, community meetings, electives, and after school clubs---offer opportunities to bring students together to discuss, share, and take action.  Your staff may also have issues they care about deeply; matching student and staff interest generates great energy.  Here are some things you might promote as a leader.


-          Write to the staff and school community (especially after an incident has taken place) about social justice issues.  Encourage them to think about what you can do as a school community to respond to events.

-          Create a social justice day for the school to take on topics as a community in a conference-style manner.

-          Offer incentives for homerooms and school groups to create and share public service announcements with the community on issues of their concern.

-          Work with the staff to develop various ways to positively allow students to express themselves.

     When Danique provided forums for his students to discuss equity issues they felt strongly about, they rose to the challenge eagerly and creatively.  Many students expressed their disgust at being called “thugs” during the Freddie Gray riots.  Some wrote about this disrespect; others created songs to address it.  When students learned about redlining in Baltimore (banks refusing to provide loans in certain neighborhoods), they created an exhibition of a model neighborhood with some areas “redlined” to help make others aware of the issue.  Students who were distressed about the rising number of homicides in Baltimore put on a play to bring attention to the issue.  Older students created a Best Buddy group to help younger special education students who were picked on.  And when LGBT students began talking about how they felt unsafe, they formed a club to support and empower one another.

     Danique made addressing issues, feelings, and concerns around race and injustice a priority.  He believed his role was to question everyone about what could be done and to channel the many ideas into actions.  Along with finding and creating the space for projects to develop, a lot of the leadership work was in making the community aware that the school promoted and encouraged positive action.  He also valued bringing in different voices, perspectives, and resources from within and outside of the school community.  Although he didn’t have all the answers on what to do, Danique learned that through engaging empathetically with various community members, students, and staff and being a part of discussions and idea sharing around injustice, he was strengthening his leadership.


Enter the Fire Yourself

     As the not-quite-fearless leader of a school community, you must be willing to enter the fire by speaking up about issues of inequity and racism and sharing your own emotions.  And you must find the balance within yourself between talking about injustices you’re passionate about and making space for the variety of concerns and feelings your community has.

     As a black man who had been stopped by the police himself, Danique knew deep down the feeling of helplessness racism can bring.  He also knew that focusing only on his anger as a black man wouldn’t help his staff and student community, which was a mixture of black, white, and Latino/a people with a wide range of experiences.

     Danique felt more vulnerable as a leader when he pushed for discussions as a community around race than when he pushed for discussion around issues like gender equity or other differences.  But his fear of going overboard or making an error because of his own experiences as a black man didn’t stop him from tending to the hot topic.  Not discussing the Freddie Gray tragedy would have been as bad as or worse than not discussing issues of school safety.  He launched the discussion with these words:


I feel like I am at least two or three people right now.  I am a black man who is pained by seeing images of black men being killed, I’m an angry man who is fed up but knows that pure rage won’t get me anywhere because I’m a school principal and kids watch what I do and how I act or react.  We have kids out there who may be feeling as angry and confused as myself or worse and we have to be ready for them and figure out how we all will learn and grow from this situation.


     Similarly, after the shooting of Keith Scott in September 2016 and subsequent riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, Liz (coauthor of this article) knew that as the white director of an education leadership program, saying nothing to her doctoral students wasn’t an option.  (More accurately, silence is always an option, but not always a good one, particularly for a white leader.)  She wasn’t sure exactly what to say.  But her fear of going “underboard” or making an error as a white woman didn’t stop her because she’d learned that silence can hurt more than words.  Acknowledging that something is happening and opening the space for others to speak and listen, however imperfectly, is an important first step.


Build Diverse Relationships—and Practice

     Another step toward building your capacity to lead for equity is forming relationships across lines of difference.  The work of addressing equity issues is easier if you have rapport with colleagues across lines of difference (race, gender, language, religion, politics, and so on).  You can be braver because you know certain people will tell you what they really think or where you’re going astray, and you’ll be able to hear them because you trust them.

     It also helps to take an honest look at your strengths and limitations.  Sometimes you can see these reflected in your school:  If your school isn’t good at something and you’re the leader, that’s probably a reflection of your weaker side (and vice versa).  This is as true for equity issues as it is for more straightforward academic issues.  It’s important to realize, for instance, that being a person of color doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be skilled in leading for equity or building others’ capacity to do so—although you’ve probably had more practice in talking about race than your white colleagues have.  Similarly, being white doesn’t automatically disqualify you—or exempt you.  The many identities you bring to leadership will affect how you lead for equity.  Sometimes who you are will make this easier; sometimes harder.  Often it will be both.

     Leadership is a practice, so once you’ve identified areas you need to work on—practice!  At some point, Liz noticed she didn’t hear many white people say the word race, and that when she said it, she had a physical reaction—her heart skipped beats, her speech going faster.  So she practiced bringing up race in real conversations until she had no physical reactions.  Danique realized he needed to understand how best to use his personal experiences while still giving others a voice, particularly because he led a predominantly white staff.

     As a leader tackling sensitive issues, you also need to recognize your own needs.  Ask for help from your network, telling people exactly what kind of help you need.  Do you need assistance finding resources such as discussion protocols?  Or just a shoulder to cry on to hold yourself steady? Discuss and face your own feelings, even your biases.

     You don’t have to be perfect.  But you do have to be learning and leading.


Build Colleagues’ Capacity

     For some of us, it’s easier to work directly with students or hold up the mirror to ourselves than to spend time and energy building the capacity of our colleagues.  But other adults in the building will likely engage in more dialogue with students on equity issues than you will as school leader, so it’s worth your investment to build their capacity.  And when a community names truths, disagrees, and tries to really see and listen to one another, great learning happens.

     We’ve found that when talking about equity—and race in particular—giving anyone the impression you think they’re racist isn’t the best place to start.  Liz learned this when she talked with a colleague about an interaction this teacher had had with students that some students experienced as rude and others as racist.  “No one likes to be called a racist,” the teacher told Liz.  Although Liz hadn’t called her a racist, when she talked about the racially charged exchange, this teacher felt accursed.

     So where do you start?  Remember that the skills you have for leading adult learning in general apply to fostering adult learning about equity.  So start out the way you would if you were trying to build your staff’s capacity about anything—by getting some sense of each individual’s comfort level and skills in that area, realizing that the level of confidence and skills will vary across your community.  You might have your colleagues identify their level of comfort and skill in discussing—and having students discuss—equity or race issues, having them reflect on questions like, How comfortable am I discussing topics related to (in) equity with students?  What steps can I take to improve my comfort level? What skills can I bring to facilitating dialogue around this hot topic?  What skills must I acquire to get better—and what steps can I take to acquire them?

     Once you see where staff members fall, you’ll see what each one needs most to build capacity.  You might enlist those colleagues who demonstrate high confidence and skill levels as leaders in launching equity discussions.  Those with skill in facilitating dialogue but low comfort with equity or race issues may need encouragement to give it a try.  Colleague with both low confidence and low skill might need some training, and they will certainly need lots of practice discussing equity issues in safe spaces and receiving feedback.  The bottom line: It’s worth noticing where each staff person is on this journey and helping him or her go farther.


Contending with Fire

     As leaders in education seeking equity for all, our fight will never end.  Each incident we face related to social justice, race, and inequity will be rooted in deeper fires that we didn’t start, but which we must contend with as part of our world.  Our role is to equip students to face that world.  Danique’s students, for instance, faced a situation in which buses often drove past black students without stopping.  Several students wrote a letter to the bus company, requesting a meeting.

     By helping students and colleagues control the fire of emotion surrounding inequity and use its energy constructively, we can prepare students for situations that will challenge them more than any math problem.  We must build our own and others’ capacity to learn through, to learn in spite of, to learn because of, and to learn with.

Back to top