From the AWSP Executive Director
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
Celebrating 50 Years of Principal Leadership
Dr. Scott Seaman
Executive Director, AWSP
The mission of AWSP is simple: We exist to support all school principals, and the principalship, in the education of each and every student. All principals, which means, assistant principals and principals. The principalship, which means, the important role school leaders play in student achievement and school culture. And, each and every student, which means exactly what it says…each and every, no exceptions. This year, we are celebrating our 50th year as one of the country’s premier professional membership organizations for principals. Our humble beginning started in 1972 thanks to a handful of courageous leaders who believed “principals” needed their own voice in the P-16 educational system. And, 50 years later, AWSP has maintained that vision and continues to be a leading voice for principals and assistant principals throughout our state and across the country. Thanks to a recent meeting with the AWSP Board, we had an opportunity to revisit our mission, vision, and goals as an organization. And when I say we, I’m talking about you. AWSP is an organization run by and for school leaders. The AWSP Board is composed of practicing principals from throughout every region of the state. The Board works hand in hand with the AWSP staff to support the board’s mission, vision, and top priorities. The strength of our organization is dependent on members like you who are willing to step into leadership roles within the organization. AWSP has incredible influence throughout the system thanks to the highest membership in the country and dedicated professionals who’ve engaged in association leadership for decades. We believe wholeheartedly in the simply defined mission of AWSP (all principals, the principalship, and each and every student). We also are passionate about our “why.” School leadership matters. Increasing and consistent research findings continue to highlight the important role principals play in the creation of school culture, systems that support that culture, and the resulting learning for both students and adults. A great school simply doesn’t exist without a great principal. And, we have made it our mission to fight to make sure that every student in every school has an incredible school principal.
Our humble beginning started in 1972 thanks to a handful of courageous leaders who believed ‘principals’ needed their own voice in the P-16 educational system. And, 50 years later, AWSP has maintained that vision and continues to be a leading voice for principals and assistant principals throughout our state and across the country.
The AWSP Board identified three main priorities for us as an organization in order to truly impact student achievement through excellent leadership. We, as a system, need to grow, support, and sustain school leaders. We need to be working with current K-12 students, encouraging them to consider education as a career and then support them throughout their educational journey. We need to make sure we put every resource possible in the hands of our new leaders to ensure they successfully thrive in their first few years. And, we need to make sure our leaders are 100% supported in their roles so the impact of their sustained leadership has a direct impact on each and every student. We must grow future leaders while also supporting and sustaining the most effective and impactful leaders possible for our students and teachers. Consistent leadership is key and reducing leadership turnover must be a collective focus. Our priorities will help us stay targeted on this important work. We’ve seen massive changes in the last 50 years of education, but unfortunately not enough. We didn’t truly start to examine and dismantle historically inequitable systems until recent years. That work requires different leadership. It requires courageous, persistent, visionary, and consistent leadership. It requires a leader willing to break down barriers of existing systems while simultaneously creating relationships and urgency to envision and redefine a whole new system for our students. This is not an overnight process. It requires trust, time, and a common mission. Fifty years from now I’m hoping that whoever stands in our shoes will be able to say that not only did we fight for that change, but that we did it. That thanks to courageous leadership from current and future school principals we were able to completely rethink the P-16 experience for our students and families. That thanks to persistent and highly effective leadership we rebuilt schools to meet the needs of each and every one of our students, not the needs of the system. And, that thanks to a collective effort we reimagined the roles and expectations placed upon school leaders so that everyone aspires to school leadership. That’s what I hope for. As we embark on our 50th anniversary we will spend the year celebrating you and the organization that has faithfully and consistently represented you. The work you do every day for students, staff, and your community is too important not to be recognized and celebrated. We will use this 50th anniversary as an opportunity to continue sharing with the world the work and impact you have day in and day out. Principals matter. We will also use this opportunity to fight for the principalship. It is often described as the best job in the world, yet most challenging. We can also safely say that during the last ten years it has become daunting, unrealistic, untenable, and borderline unbearable. Something needs to change because our students cannot afford ineffective or inconsistent leadership. They need you to be great and stay in your role. It’s time for action. Time for us to stand up and fight for more realistic working conditions and expectations. Everyone needs to be paying attention to the plight of our school leaders and coming together to brainstorm solutions and provide immediate relief before it’s too late. Research and surveys indicate that many of our best and brightest principals have considered and/or are considering leaving the profession because of the unbearable nature of the work, especially this past year. Clearly that’s an option you must consider if you or your family are suffering as a result of the stress, anxiety, and demands of the job. However, I would encourage you to channel your frustration into a different kind of change. Help us change the landscape of the principalship. Instead of walking away from your passion, step forward with us and your colleagues to build a new future for school leaders. Join us in taking this vitally important message to everyone with influence in the education system. If you don’t then who will?
Together we can set the stage for the next 50 years and create inspirational and hope-filled schools for each and every student.
Dr. Scott Seaman joined AWSP in the fall of 2013 after serving as the principal at Tumwater High School. In July 2018, he assumed duties as Executive Director.
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Washington Principal | Volume 2– 2021-22