2021 Fall Conference Learning Sessions | Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators

All of the sessions below will be held on Thursday, September 23, at the 2021 Fall Conference.

Thursday, September 23

8:30 – 11:30 a.m.        General Session

Hot Topics Facilitated Discussion

This session will bring participants together for a dynamic, facilitated discussion on the important issues affecting districts and their leaders. Come prepared to share and learn from colleagues across the state.

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.         Lunch & Learn Sessions

Amp Up Your District Programming!

Wendy Zdeb, Executive Director and Ryan Cayce, Director of Digital Learning and Resources, MASSP

The pandemic has shined a bright light on several areas that need to be improved in public education with the need for additional support for students and educators being at the top of the list! Join this face paced session with the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals to learn about new programs the association has designed to: (1) Ensure your administrators are all on the same page with hot topic legal issues (2) Increase student voice, engagement and opportunities through student leadership programming and eSports (3) Raise career awareness and provide the “why” for learning for students and (4) Provide new teachers with systemic, research based ongoing support.


Executive Compensation: How to Navigate the Complexities of Superintendent Compensation

Williams & Company Executive Services

When structuring a compensation package there are often items overlooked by both the Board of Education and Superintendent that could have a drastic impact on your current and long-term retirement income.  Knowing how to advocate for yourself when structuring a compensation package can mean the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars of retirement income.  Whether you are looking at re-working your current contract or structuring your initial compensation package with a new district it is crucial you have an advocate looking out for your best interest.

In this presentation we will address ways to structure your compensation to help maximize benefits while meeting the School Board’s objectives.

Topics will include:

  • Includable vs Non-includable Compensation
  • Includable compensation other than base salary
  • Increasing pension income through the use of Non-Includable Compensation


Tools to Relieve Employee Stress

Jim Baker, MESSA

With a constantly changing world, MESSA is committed to helping education employees thrive by finding work-life balance and overall well-being with our continued focus on health and wellness. MESSA understands that every person is different and every one of us needs to be able to focus not only on one’s self but also on one’s work environment. MyStressTools is a suite of tools that exemplifies how each person, no matter their environment, can self-identify positive steps towards their own well-being and get personalized guidance along the way. As employers and leaders, I encourage you to seek ways in which you can assist your greatest asset — your employees — by implementing hands on tools that are accessible whenever they need them.


Telling and Monitoring Your Data Story for MICIP and Beyond

Myra Munroe, Eidex

Quickly monitor your interventions using a Custom Dashboard to visualize charts and reports as you keep a laser focus on what matters most for your district (e.g., What was the effect of Summer School? Of Virtual Learning? etc.).


Got Mental Health on Your Mind?

Art Godin Ed.S., Gaggle

We are at a tipping point where mental health and wellness is a priority for schools and families. Districts and communities are seeing an increased demand for counselors and clinicians but are having tremendous difficulty filling the gaps. Research shows that in the United States up to 40% of youth will experience a mental health problem by the time they reach seventh grade with more than half never receiving treatment — revealing a mental health crisis surrounding today’s students.

It’s time to break down the silos and realize that schools have become de facto mental health providers for many students. Hear Art Godin Ed.S., a former School Psychologist at Huron ISD, discuss how integrating PBIS with school mental health can improve outcomes for all children and youth. Participants will focus on prevention, early identification, and intervention of social-emotional behavioral needs of students.


Analytics:  How do I use all the Pretty Data?

Jill Vandagriff, Regional Director and Jeri Kemble, National Academic Advisor, Classlink

We all know that you can’t change what you don’t measure.  More than ever, better decisions require better data.   Jerri Kemble, former Assistant Superintendent at Lawrence Unified School District and now an educational thought leader and podcaster on education topics, will lead a discussion on using your digital engagement numbers to have conversations you couldn’t have had before.

  • The real cost of resources, known and unknown
  • Reducing frustration as an obstacle to learning
  • Finding your champions to lead from within
  • Do your resources reflect your demographics?
  • What is the best data you ever saw?


Bridging the Gap: How parent Communication is the Key to Supercharging your District

Cole Dargan, District Partnerships and Lindsay Kapsa, VP of Customer Success, Classtag

You know parent engagement is important.  But do you know the depth of impact it has on student success and how to unlock higher levels of achievement? What can you, as a district administrator do to supercharge your district and schools’ successes?
Join us to learn:

  • How small changes to your communications can impact your district and schools’ climate and culture
  • Ways parent engagement and meaningful communication can help decrease the student achievement gap
  • How to ensure all stakeholders in your district communicate with a shared vision and purpose
  • How to access the data and insights you need to reach and build connections with every family


Looking Ahead: K-12 HVAC, Power Contingency Planning Offers Flexibility and Peace of Mind

Steve Berry, Account Manager, Rental Services, Trane

A broken HVAC chiller. Indoor environment quality issues. Students, faculty, and staff attending school in-person. The pressures around managing aging schools are never-ending and are further complicated when buildings close due to faulty or broken systems. This session will help administrators and facility managers create a well-developed contingency plan with immediate rental solutions and resources on hand to keep schools open while more permanent solutions can be funded and implemented.


Finding Your Growth Heroes in EVAAS

Katrina Miller, SAS Institute, Inc.

Would you like to know how to locate and use data to uncover excellence in practice? Yes, please. School administrators in Michigan have access to a suite of reports from SAS EVAAS that tells the story of student growth in their schools. What’s your growth story, and who are the heroes making a positive difference for students? How can you capitalize on these strengths and uncover hidden potential for new team leaders and mentors? In this session, we will explore reports that highlight and celebrate schools and teacher teams for their outstanding accomplishments in promoting student growth. We will also consider how student projection reports can help your team write the next triumphant chapter.


The ABC’s of Filling Teacher Vacancies

John Harvey, Director of School Partnerships for the State of Michigan, Proximity Learning

The session will discuss how to recruit teachers who excel in providing students with an exceptional experience in a virtual setting. We will share how Proximity Learning allows students to succeed by leveraging digital tools to create an environment of bi-directional communication in the classroom. Also, we will highlight the differences in asynchronous versus synchronous instruction.


Solar is Not Just for Hippies Anymore – Why Leading Midwestern School Districts are Making the Switch to Renewables

Kyle Loyd and Todd Main, Econergy, LLC

Are you interested in onsite solar energy creation for your district? Do you have questions as to how solar power works? Are you curious about how much it cost? Have you wondered if it is safe to rely on solar power? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this is the lunch and learn session for you! Econergy, a global renewable energy development company, has partnered with MASA to create Lighthouse Energy Consortium to serve the school districts of Michigan. Lighthouse Energy Consortium is a non-profit entity that exist to educate, empower, and equip Michigan school districts to make informed decisions moving forward in the realm of energy. During this lunch and learn we are going to cover the following:

  • Who we are (Lighthouse Energy Consortium)
  • Discuss Brown vs Green energy (Power Brokerage)
  • Deregulated vs Regulated (Legislative action in Michigan)
  • Simplify a utility bill (Making sense of all the charges: 2 parts)
  • Onsite Solar Development (FAQs: Toll Road Example)
  • Cost of Solar (PPA Model)
  • How we can help your district (How to move forward/starting the process)



12:45 – 2 p.m.       Learning Sessions

From Unfinished Learning to Learning Found

Luci Cambria, Curricular Solutions Architect, Newsela

Schools, teachers, and students have gone through a challenging year. Now more than ever is the time to recreate learning environments that focus on the “whole child,” so that every hour in the classroom counts in helping students academically, socially, and emotionally. This session will discuss how Newsela’s engaging, culturally responsive content empowers your district to create meaningful long-term learning impacts – aligned with the Michigan Blueprint for comprehensive student recovery. We will cover topics such as addressing unfinished learning due to inequalities and disengagement, incorporating family in learning, and weaving social-emotional learning into core subjects – so that district leaders can ensure learners are set up for success. 


  1. Learn how to drive meaningful learning and data-driven instruction using Newsela’s standards-aligned formative assessments 
  2. Discover how teachers can weave SEL into content-area instruction to support the “whole child” 
  3. Share how Newsela’s culturally responsive content can improve school climate and family engagement 


F2F: Unlock the Heart of School Leadership

Yvonne Caamal Canul, Caamal Canul Consulting, LLC

Emerging from the fog into a face-to-face (F2F) world again requires a focus on the more humanistic elements of (re)developing school culture. Being a reflective leader with a wide network of relationships while nurturing positive school rituals will unlock the heart of school leadership and bring F2F work to renewed levels of wellness for students, staff, and the community. Participants will engage in unique activities that highlight the learning. 


  1. Better understand the importance of reflective leadership in helping establish school culture 
  2. Acknowledging the nature of creating a network of relationships to advance a leader’s vision 
  3. Participating in real-life examples of the power of rituals in developing a school culture. 


Miss Kendra Project

Meghan Lane, Early Childhood Director, Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District; Danielle Grayson, Licensed Social Worker, State of Michigan

The core aim of the Miss Kendra Project is to enhance and build the resilience of youth exposed to trauma and toxic stress. This is a social-emotional trauma-based curriculum that focuses on changing the school-wide culture and climate. The main concepts are to teach self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The Miss Kendra Program is designed to elicit the opinions, feelings, and thoughts of the students as well as their own personal experiences regarding very sensitive subjects and every day worries. This provides many creative, active, energetic, and magical activities that provide an imaginal social buffer against the sometimes grim, sad, or chronic challenges some children face daily. The Miss Kendra Program is a nationwide program, and we are excited to be the first school district in the state of Michigan to implement this amazing program.  


  1. Creating a safe environment for children to be able to talk about their every day worries.
  2. Understanding the impact that trauma has on children’s abilities to focus in the classroom
  3. Proven to reduce expulsions, suspensions, and trips to the principal’s office.


What is the Michigan Association of Professors of Educational Leadership (MAPEL) and Why Should You Care?

Greg Warsen, Assistant Professor, Grand Valley State University and former Superintendent; Ron Koehler, Interim Superintendent, Kent ISD; Suzanne Klein, former superintendent and current faculty member of Oakland University

MAPEL in the process of moving closer to, if not into the arena of K-12 education in Michigan. Most members are former K-12 administrators, many at the district level, and see ways that we could better support the efforts of K-12 districts more intentionally. An example we would like to describe is the recent windfall of dollars that hit K-12, how the School Finance Research Collaborative (SFRC) influenced that, how the SFRC might continue to influence school funding, how to best proceed to avoid a funding cliff in Michigan (and your district), and how educational leadership faculty can help with these questions. We also want to engage the group on how Educational Leadership preparation programs can collaborate more effectively with those in the field in the areas of advocacy, policy development, research and models of best practice, and overall strategy. 


  1. A deeper, more nuanced view of some of the question’s districts need to consider with increased funding
  2.  An understanding of the continued relevance of the SFRC and future education funding in Michigan
  3. Engagement in a robust conversation about how educational leadership preparation programs can better support school districts 


The State Education Network (SEN)

Dave Cairy, MAISA

Your State Education Network: The vision for the State Education Network is to connect 100% of Michigan’s ISDs, LEAs, and PSAs with the networking capacity needed to ensure that teachers and students never see bandwidth as a barrier to achieving their goals in the classroom.

The SEN allows online assessments and other high-value online activities to be accessed securely at higher bandwidths and lower costs than traditional Internet access. The SEN facilitates great opportunities to share technology and related services.

During this session participants will learn how the SEN is working to provide equitable connectivity across the state as well as discover how EduPaths is delivering high-quality professional learning to all Michigan educators across our state education network.


Title IX, Year 2: Avoiding Mirrors, Trap Doors, and Tree Snares

Jennifer Starlin and Roy H. Henley, Thrun Law Firm, P.C.

After a year of living with the new Title IX regulations and their trifurcated approach to sex discrimination grievance resolution in schools, we know all three are out there. This session will give you practical tips to avoid them and provide guidance on superintendent and administrator roles in the Title IX grievance process.


  1. If possible, high-level administrators may need to avoid serving in a key role during the grievance process; smaller schools may want to pool resources or consult with their ISD to ensure enough individuals are trained to serve in key roles.
  2. Communication among administrators is key to ensuring all legal requirements are followed.
  3. Train Title IX Coordinators to conduct a thorough intake meeting, which may result in fewer complaints moving through the grievance process. 

Note: This session does not replace the need for comprehensive Title IX training for those serving in key roles, nor does it replace the awareness training requirement under Title IX.  


Offering Equitable and Creative Post-Secondary Experiences

Daniel O’Connor, Superintendent, Alcona Community Schools

Alcona Community Schools is in a secondary education desert and struggling to offer equitable access to dual enrollment for their impoverished students. The district revamped their dual enrollment to offer eight classes on campus with a local community college face-to-face for the same cost as their previous dual enrollment budget. The school has since added an early college program and continues to outperform peers and the state in encouraging students to take dual enrollment before graduation. 


  1. Thinking creatively on recruiting and exposing students to DE classes 
  2. Utilizing MMC flexibility to allow DE classes to count toward core graduation credits 
  3. Maximizing budget and negotiation dollars for the program to not be a burden to the school budget 


What Are They Thinking? Understanding How Teachers Apply Learning from Professional Development

Kyle Corlett, Superintendent, Delton Kellogg Schools

Schools invest a lot of money into professional development, but often lack understanding of what makes it effective. What schools especially struggle with is understanding how teachers apply what they learn from PD to improve their instruction. To address these gaps of understanding, I conducted a study for my doctoral dissertation on the cognitive process of teachers when they lesson plan after attending PD and how they apply strategies to their classrooms. My study built on previous research regarding effective characteristics of professional development, how teachers lesson plan, but also had new findings on how teachers think that can have a significant impact on how districts support their staff. 


  1. What characteristics makes professional development effective in improving teacher instruction 
  2. The cognitive process of teachers when they lesson plan and how they apply what they learn from professional development 
  3. How school leaders can use this knowledge to improve professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators, as well as improve their school culture by better understanding what their staff needs. 


Employee Wellness, the Key to Staff Retention

Abby Cypher, Executive Director, Michigan Association of Special Education; Kenneth Gutman, Superintendent, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools

We know COVID has impacted our educator’s wellbeing, both physically and mentally. We had shortages before, but we anticipate higher rates of educator turnover this year for a variety of reasons. Educator turnover comes at a high cost to districts. A focus on educator wellness significantly improves employee retention. Well-being includes more than just happiness, it also means the fulfillment of long-term goals, your sense of purpose, and how in control you feel in life. Individuals with higher levels of wellbeing are 6x more likely to feel engaged, 45% more likely to be satisfied in their jobs, and 125% less likely to burn out. Workplaces that choose to invest in employee wellbeing experience 42% lower turnover. Based on this data Walled Lake Consolidated Schools is leaning into employee wellness to retain their highly skilled staff. Join us to learn the top stressors educators face today and the three broad research-based strategies for supporting wellness in the workplace. Hear how this superintendent is using employee voice to develop a framework that other districts can easily adopt and replicate. 


  1. An overview of workplace wellness, why it is important, and the link to staff retention. 
  2. An understanding of the three broad research-based strategies for supporting wellness in the workplace and what outcomes should be measured. 
  3. A sample structure for engaging employee voice in creating an employee wellness program. 


How Do We Create a Culture of Innovation in Michigan Schools?

Dr. Christopher Timmis, Superintendent, Dexter Community Schools; Dr. John VanWagoner, Superintendent, Traverse City Area Public Schools; Dr. Alena Zachery-Ross, Superintendent, Ypsilanti Community Schools; Dr. Kelly Coffin, Farmington Public Schools; and Dr. Dave Richards, CEO, Core2Edge Consulting, Michigan Virtual

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, the Governor’s Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery was released along with recommendations from MDE and MASA. The recommendations share what schools need to do for kids as we arise from the pandemic and begin the 2021-2022 school year. While these documents provide important recommendations of practices that should be implemented, clear policy implications exist throughout Michigan that must be addressed to truly support all kids following the recommendations from educational leaders throughout the state. As a result, in June of 2021, the Michigan Competency Consortium released a policy analysis of Michigan Law and Policy outlining Five Strategies for Advancing Student-Centered Innovation. This session will outline the clear policy changes needed in Michigan to ensure systems that are more resilient and equitable as our country rebuilds. These policy changes will not only help the state effectively address the delay in learning brought on by the pandemic – in the long term, but it will also empower the state K-12 education system to produce more qualified graduates who are well prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, careers, and civic life.  The session will explore the work that is happening nationally to advance student-centered innovation along with a deep analysis of Michigan laws, policies, and initiatives that can be enhanced or modified to further the work. Specifically, five strategies will be explored: 

  • Building a Culture of Innovation 
  • Rethinking Seat Time & Student Engagement 
  • Creating Transparent Competency-Based Learning Frameworks 
  • Establishing Competency-Based Graduation Pathways 
  • Balancing State Assessment Systems 


  1. Understand the national trends in state law and policy to advance student-centered innovation 
  2. Understand what practices, policies, and laws are currently in place in Michigan to advance student-centered innovation 
  3. Create common talking points and common language when discussing these policy and legal changes needed in Michigan to advance student-centered innovation. 


Let’s Get Real: Implementing School-Wide Project-Based Learning

Terra Tarango, Chief Education Officer, Van Andel Institute for Education

The pandemic shook all of Education out of its comfort zone, and now it is time to embrace the opportunity for a reset. Use this time to reimagine teaching and learning in your school. Discover how to support teachers in creating memorable, meaningful learning experiences that give an authentic context for learning. Give them the tools to increase engagement, accelerate learning, and mitigate equity issues with cross-curricular instruction, purposeful collaboration, and real-world connections. Come with a willingness to transform your school into a place that engages students in making the world a better place (without skimping on academic rigor). Leave with the tools to make it happen. 


  1.  Establish a vision for authentic learning experiences in your school. 
  2. Explore a process for creating and implementing PBL across your school. 
  3. Discover specific projects to get teachers started. 

Fight Back Against Cyber Attacks: Don’t Fall Victim to Cybercriminals

Steve Privasky, Property/Casualty and Workers’ Compensation Sales Manager, SET SEG

 Cyber criminals are attacking public schools at an alarming rate. A cyber breach can wreak havoc on a public school – compromising private information, diminishing a community’s confidence in the school, and ultimately costing the district thousands of dollars. As threats and phishing attacks become more sophisticated, it is imperative that school staff be educated on recognizing, stopping, and reporting attacks. In this session, learn about emerging trends in ransomware and new models of defense, how to spot tell-tale signs of malicious content and phishing attempts, and how to handle a breach to quickly shut down the potential for more damage. Hear real-life examples of districts who thwarted these attempts and learn about tools and techniques in Education, Separation and Mitigation to keep your schools secure.


  1. Learn how to spot malicious attempts at gaining access to your systems.
  2. Learn what to do immediately after a breach occurs to shut it down, report appropriately, and diminish the risk of ongoing exposure.
  3. Learn the best ways to educate and train your staff so they are prepared to recognize and thwart future attempts by bad actors.

2:15 – 3:30 p.m.       Learning Sessions


School Renewal for Transformative Change

Dr. Patricia Reeves and Jianping Shen, HIL School Renewal Co-Directors and principal researchers; plus, a team of HIL Project Coordinators, Facilitator Coaches, Principals, and Teachers

True transformative change is challenging. Competing initiatives, deeply held assumptions, firmly entrenched habits and routines, and misaligned systems can undermine even the most passionate commitment to change for better student outcomes. The fact remains, true equity of learning opportunity and outcomes requires transformative work, and transformative work requires a special kind of leadership.  The High Impact Leadership (HIL) for School Renewal Model offers school leaders an actionable frame and achievable process to hone-in on the changes that will make a critical difference for all students and take on persistent achievement gaps. Under a U.S.D.O. Ed grant, 146 schools in West Michigan have applied the HIL School Renewal Model and Process to a literacy success change initiative since 2018.  Presenters for this session will provide participants with an overview of the HIL School Renewal approach and share examples of how they used this approach to achieve transformative change under a controlled study. Participants will engage in an exploration of how they might use the HIL School Renewal Process to achieve transformative change in their own schools. 


From Development to Implementation: Essential Instructional Practices in Early Mathematics

Dave Krebs, Executive Director of the General Education Leadership Network, MAISA; Jill Ball, Instructional Services Coordinator for Tuscola ISD; Rusty Anderson, Math Education Consultant for Kent ISD; Kim Fox, Math Consultant for Calhoun ISD 

Finally! With the Governor’s signature on HB 4411, now PA 48, success in early mathematics is legislatively recognized as leading to greater success in mathematics later in school, in school more broadly, and later in the labor market. Join us to learn how we came to this moment and, more importantly, how we will use these funds to help you:

  • Build educator knowledge and skills around a specific vision for early mathematics teaching and learning, 
  • Support educators in the implementation of that vision (through professional learning, coaching, and structured collaboration), and  
  • Ensure accountability for the transfer of effective practices to classrooms and continuous improvement of those practices (through Essential School-Wide and Center-Wide Practices in Early Mathematics). 


  1. Understand the need and vision for the GELN Early Math Task Force work around research-informed Essential Instructional Practices in Early Mathematics, Pre-K to Grade 3. 
  2. Receive information regarding key task force activities for FY 21-22 funded through PA 48, section 35a. 
  3. Learn how district leaders can support this work in their schools. 


Guaranteed Energy Savings Program: The Key to Reallocation of Utility Dollars

Dr. John VanWagoner, Superintendent, Traverse City Public Schools; Gwenn Pettitt, Comprehensive Energy Solutions Partner, Trane 

This learning session will explain how school districts and postsecondary education campuses have an excellent opportunity to utilize State of Michigan statutory “guaranteed energy-saving programs” to accomplish these goals:

  • Upgrade critical infrastructure needs to improve the school’s educational environment and support the education mission of the district.
  • Upgrade backbone infrastructure to current building technologies that expand the facility uses for future educational changes and enhanced programming opportunities.
  • Decrease energy use and serve a public purpose of the community, the current students, and the current staff to be good stewards of our earth’s environment for future generations. 

Guaranteed energy savings programs in their simplest description identify energy and operational expense opportunities to reduce real costs and repurpose current budget expenditures into new and upgraded building technologies. These programs and the application of the current building technologies to a specific project are a joint process between customer/school district and energy contracting professionals to achieve the goals and needs of the customer’s long-term facilities plans. 

In addition to the financial and environmental impact, the building upgrades funded by the guaranteed energy savings program often meet the standard required to use the building as a virtual living-learning lab for a wide variety of K12 and postsecondary education STEM and STEAM programming. 


  1. Attendees will learn what “guaranteed energy savings performance contracting” is and how it enables a school district to fund building upgrades and reallocate utility dollars to positively contribute to the bottom line.  
  2. Attendees will learn what energy efficiency upgrades are and how they contribute to a building’s indoor environment quality as well as turn the building into a virtual living-learning lab for diverse K12 and post-secondary STEM and STEAM programming.  
  3. Attendees will learn how the guaranteed performance contracting process works through real-world examples in the State of Michigan, with a step-by-step guide they can immediately put into 


Supporting LGBTQ Students and Employees: Addressing, Investigating, and Eliminating Sex Discrimination

Jessica McNamara, Attorney, Thrun Law Firm, P.C. 

With the full return to in-person learning, complaints alleging sex discrimination are on the rise. Moreover, with the recent change in presidential administration, how OCR and these complaints must be addressed is also changing. This session will provide attendees with the legal landscape and protections for LGBTQ students and employees. 


  1. Legal obligations schools have to their LGBTQ students and employees. 
  2. Investigation requirements to avoid potential liability. 
  3. Ways to monitor the school climate to promote LGBTQ student and staff wellness 


Authentic Learning and Serving Community

Daniel O’Connor, Superintendent; Jenny Schroeder, Helen Ann Cordes, Ashlie O’Connor, and Connor Hubbard, Alcona Community Schools

Three years ago, Alcona Community Schools began a drastic shift toward place-based, project, and problem-based learning. The district began by developing a profile of a graduate, purchasing a wooded 43 acres connected to campus. The district then began the development of the skills through engagement the district’s campus, new property, and community partnerships to build the skills desired for our students. The district has since added a k-5 science co-teaching model with a place-based education expert, a maker space in the elementary building through a partnership with MSU Extension, a hoop house and community garden, and finalizing the development of a three-mile nature trail with community access. 


  1. The process to develop a profile of a graduate 
  2. Creative ways to develop capacity with staff through partnerships with community agencies 
  3. Ways to build community by through the three Ps and opening the school for community engagement 


Designing for a Future of Wellness and Safety

Steven JelinekSenior Design Architect, Stantec Architecture; Brittany Walker, Senior Interior Designer, Stantec Architecture; Mark Bielang, Superintendent, Portage Public Schools

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and biophilic design principles may often seem at odds and creating secure buildings and campuses can challenge good relationships, whether town-gown or occupant-nature. But engaging users early in planning and design can result in the creation of environments that effectively embrace both security and wellness. What is better is that great ideas for integrating security and wellness for your facilities may come from unexpected sources that present during the early planning and community engagement.  Through insights, lessons learned, and examples of recent, award-winning programs, our team will share its approach to achieving safe, biophilic-rich spaces that promote wellness and a welcomed sense of security. 


  1. A greater understanding of biophilic design and its impact on students and faculty, and to how best use its principles to evaluate existing security measures and refine them to be more centered on user wellness. “Biophilic design is a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions.”  
  2. Guiding principles to achieve both new buildings and renovations of spaces that are simultaneously secure, welcoming, and comfortable; as well as an approach for engaging with varied stakeholders (including administrators, teachers, facilities teams, students, parents, and community members). A step-by-step safety review process based on measurable parameters will be provided to support this takeaway. 
  3. An Integrated Planning Assessment Worksheet will be introduced and provided as a takeaway for attendees. The worksheet, combined with lessons learned from our team, will help attendees seek out on-campus success stories and identify opportunities to improve user experiences related to safety and wellness. The worksheet and process are also designed to help district teams identify high-impact, low-cost opportunities within both new and existing facilities to improve the building user experience related to security and connectedness (both with nature and with one another). 


“$@&% Softball” – Free Speech Rights After Mahoney Area School District v. BL

Anya Lusk, Attorney, Robert Schindler, Attorney, Miller Johnson 

This session will focus on the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Mahoney Area School District v. BL, in which the Court held a school district violated a student’s First Amendment right to free speech after she was suspended for posting “f*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything” on Snapchat. In addition, this session will focus on the steps a school district may (or may not) take when addresses teacher and staff remarks concerning COVID-19 protocols, provide a general overview of the First Amendment, provide real-world applications for these decisions, review other recent United States Supreme Court decisions on free speech rights for students and teachers, and work through a handful of hypotheticals for audience participation. 


Students and teachers have a constitutionally protected right to free speech in the education setting. COVID-19, generally, and the corresponding health and safety requirements – masks, handwashing, social distancing – has created a divide in the country and, now that most schools have resumed in-person classes, school districts must be careful when issuing discipline that may deprive students and teachers of this right.



Leveraging Student Voice for Comprehensive Recovery

Dr. Heidi Kattula, Superintendent, East Grand Rapids Public Schools; Kevin Polston, Superintendent, Kentwood Public Schools; Sunil Joy, Data Scientist, Kent ISD

A guiding principle in Michigan’s Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery is that recovery must be informed by student voice. Students are the number one stakeholder for schools, and their voice is critical for success. 

This session will explore the work of the Kent Intermediate Superintendents Association (KISA) in the creation of a common tool to hear from our number one stakeholder — students. Commissioned in fall 2019, the KISA Student Wellbeing Survey is designed to capture students’ attitudes, perceptions, and experiences at school. Specifically, it covers the areas of social-emotional learning, student engagement, and diversity.  

In partnership with the American Institutes for Research, the survey was field-tested with over 6,000 students in spring 2021. The rollout for the survey is planned for the 2021-22 school year with all 20 public school districts within Kent ISD. 

Participants will gain an insight into the survey development process, along with its broader implications for students and educators. 


  1. Students are the number one stakeholder of schools: Elevating student voice to inform decision-making is paramount for success. 
  2. Measure what matters: Student engagement and social-emotional learning are both predictors of students’ success later in life. Students are also entering into an increasingly diverse world and must learn to work with those that are different from them. 
  3. School quality must be broadly defined: School quality is often narrowly defined by one measure — test scores. Measuring those skills not captured through traditional assessments provides a broader look at the hard work educators do each day. 


School Board Governance in Trying Times

Jay BennettAssistant Director of Executive Search Services; Greg Sieszputowski, Debbie Stair, Rod Green, MASB

Even in the best of circumstances, it can sometimes be difficult as a board, administration, and community to come to an agreement on a specific policy or program. So how do you manage your governance team during the difficult times? How do you handle meetings where 100 people show up to talk about issues or concerns that are not even on your agenda and are sometimes driven by individuals or groups that aren’t even a part of your community? How can you work with your board to present a united front and avoid the pitfalls along the way? Join experienced MASB staff and consultants as they present ideas and methods for bringing the governance team together to address these situations while also helping to ensure that the board and district stay true to their established mission, vision, and goals. 


  1. Strategies to help ensure that board meetings are run appropriately and within the constraints of the OMA. 
  2. Appropriate communication protocols. 
  3. How to stay on task and work toward already established mission, goals, and objectives. 

3:45 – 5 p.m.       Learning Sessions


OCR’s National Website Accessibility Team (NWAT) Approach to Resolving Website Accessibility Complaints

Meg Hackett, Shareholder, Thrun Law Firm, P.C.; Patrick S. Creagan, Ed.D., Superintendent, Decatur Public Schools

This session will provide a legal and practical overview for school administrators of OCR’s changed handling of website accessibility complaints after OCR’s authority to dismiss a “pattern of complaints previously filed with OCR by an individual or group” that placed an “unreasonable burden” on the agency was challenged in the courts and removed from OCR’s Case Processing Manual (CPM).  


  1. Attendees will understand the role of the National Website Accessibility Team (NWAT) of OCR personnel, tech consultants, and attorneys.
  2. Attendees will understand OCR’s use of “directed investigations” to expedite the resolution process for hundreds of website accessibility complaints that were dismissed under the reversed CPM language.
  3. Attendees will understand the importance of supplementing the use of automated website accessibility tools with manual checks and addressing accessibility issues with third-party e-vendors.


Using Social Media to Strategically Promote Your School District by Connecting with Students and the Community

Glenn Maleyko, Superintendent, and David Mustonen, Director of Communications, Dearborn Public Schools

Social media is not just a “trendy” way to share cat videos and pictures of your lunch. A variety of social media platforms have become a necessary part of the communications toolbox. If you are not using social media to help promote your school district in a positive manner, address legitimate concerns, or dispel inaccurate information, then you are missing a large piece of your communications plan.  

In this enlightening session, you will learn how the Superintendent of the Dearborn Public Schools leverages the power of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, iBlog, and YouTube to complement the district’s overall communication goals. You will also gain an understanding of how the proper use of social media can be an advantageous tool to promote your Superintendency and school district.  

Of course, there is no substitute for face-to-face personal communications. However, the strategic use of social media can enhance those efforts and create a greater sense of connection and transparency with the students, staff, and community you serve. The use of a multifaceted communication protocol was especially important as we dealt with the COVID-19 Pandemic.  


  1. We will show how to use social media recipes as strategic time savers to deliver information via multiple social media applications in a very easy manner.
    2. You will engage your community and build positive relationships with the assistance of social media and your community outreach model. Participants will learn how to take a proactive approach towards getting a positive message out there within the community to promote the school district in a positive manner.
    3. The strategic use of social media creates a greater sense of connection and transparency within the school community and with the students that we serve.


Future of Learning Council

Dr. Christopher Timmis, Superintendent, Dexter Community Schools; Dr. John VanWagoner, Superintendent, Traverse City Area Public Schools; Dr. Kelly Coffin, Farmington Public Schools; Dr. Dave Richards, Michigan Virtual

The Future of Learning Council was originally named the Michigan Competency Consortium (MCC). The MCC was founded by a group of professional educators from across the state of Michigan who have taken proactive steps to provide the tools and resources to revolutionize the learning experience in their district and for their students. Founded in March of 2017, this group of district leaders has met continuously to share best practices, leadership strategies, and provide professional learning opportunities to assist others in developing new models of learning to better meet the needs of today’s students. Through the growth and interest in the MCC, the decision has been made to formalize our efforts by establishing the Future of Learning Council with the goal of expanding our scope beyond competency-based learning and to include all aspects of innovation and next-generation models for schooling. At the core of our efforts, is the systemic shift of moving from a traditional time-based structure to one centered around student mastery of content, skills, and dispositions and to support learners in multiple pathways. 


Moving “Beyond Horizons”

Michele Lemire, Horizon Leadership Academy Coordinator, MASA 

Remember the sense of satisfaction you experienced when you had opportunities to network with your Horizon (A.K.A. Navigate/Sustain) Leadership Academy to troubleshoot real issues occurring in your district? This facilitated session will engage participants to activate prior learning on personality types, situational leadership, beliefs and values, emotional intelligence, and fact-finding strategies to problem-solve district challenges currently facing superintendents this year. Participants will take part in a Thought Exchange prior to this session, to help identify/prioritize topics. The goal of this session will be for participants to arrive at a “plan of action” to use upon returning to their districts. Additionally, topics of interest will be identified for future “Beyond Horizons” sessions. 


  1. Refresh strategies centering around personality types, situational leadership, beliefs/values, emotional intelligence, and fact-finding.
  2. Re-engagement with Horizon Leadership network (s)
  3. Identify a possible “plan of action” to utilize upon returning to district


Retaining and Supporting Teachers through Transformational Wellness Coaching

Rebekah Schipper, Executive Director, Opportunity Thrive; Dr. Debbie McFalone, Consultant; and Dr. Brandi Mendham, Superintendent, Zeeland Public Schools 

Research from the Spring of 2020 revealed that over 54% of Michigan educators are experiencing high levels of sustained stress or what is known as toxic stress, 43% are experiencing anxiety daily, and 81% are concerned about their peers burning out, and yet, only 13% of our educators are seeking support from mental health professionals. This session seeks to introduce participants to an innovative way of addressing these areas of concern. In the fall of 2020, Opportunity Thrive launched the Educator Wellness Coaching Project in Ottawa County. This human-centered and unique intervention for educators who need extra support is comprised of three key areas: our Personal Wellness Inventory–a 53-question inventory that measures the key areas of an educator’s wellbeing, our Coaching Network–a community of trained and supported wellness coaches, and a one-on-one coaching relationship for educators identified as needing support. In the fall of 2021, in collaboration with statewide agencies–MEMSPA and the MEA–we will be rolling this project out statewide. Participants will learn how this program can transform the lives of their educators, build healthier cultures in their schools, and ultimately benefit their students. 


  1. The clear connection between educator wellbeing and student academic achievement
  2. The root causes of educator burnout, and strategies for addressing it
  3. The ways that transformational coaching can benefit their entire district by supporting teacher retention and job satisfaction of employees.


Your District’s Financial Pie is Only So Big, Find Out Ways to Reallocate Dollars In Order to Attract and Retain Staff

Scott Fritz, Employee Benefits Consultant, NIS (National Insurance Services); Neil Kohler, Superintendent, Brown City Community School

The last year has presented many “firsts” for schools across the state with topics of how to retain staff while dealing with the stress and uncertainty of what is happening with our communities and students. We will share successful out-of-the-box examples of how a district can manage the change from a staff surplus to a staff shortage while creating cost-saving strategies that can be implemented to retain and attract employees. Behavioral health is an increasing area that is impacting many schools, and we will share methods and solutions for evaluating data. This process will provide positive impacts to both your staff and district. This is an opportunity to review data, engage your local community, and take your district down new avenues. 


  1. How to create a positive work environment for staff while strengthening your culture
  2. Relevant financial options to retain staff through inventive strategies
  3. Behavioral health, and the impacts and solutions that can bring positive changes to your district


Aligning Staff PD to the MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery

Stacey Schuh, Senior Director of Professional Learning and Emily Sicilia, Professional Learning Services Manager, Michigan Virtual; Shelley Ruh, Director of Student Services, Ingham ISD   

As a district leader, you have a vision for what the future of learning will look like in your community. The question is: How are you training your staff in effective practices for carrying out this vision? In this interactive session, you will hear from other leaders about how they are assessing staff needs, aligning their district-provided PD to the MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery, and leveraging online tools to provide personalized learning options for staff. 


  1. Hear how other district leaders are aligning their district-provided PD plans to MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery
  2. Discover free and low-cost PD options aligned to the MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery
  3. Explore how online tools can help you personalize your staff’s professional development


Assure Your District Policies Support Student Recovery

Raymond DavisKatherine Broaddus, and Jessica McNamaraAttorneys, Thrun Law Firm P.C. 

Board Policies are “the law” of your school district. This presentation from legal experts on the subject will pinpoint best practice policies to assure your District is facilitating systems designed to optimize student and employee performance considering post-pandemic challenges. 


  1. Identification of best practice polies to improve district operations.
  2. Identification of best practice policies to improve student and employee performance.
  3. How to avoid common pitfalls in policies that could that inhibit student and employee performance.


Seeking First to Understand, A Process for Engaging in Community Conversations around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Chris Rice, Executive Director, and  Tom Richardson, Deputy Director, West Michigan Education Research and Development Foundation

Addressing issues of equity and inclusion in our highly politicized climate is more difficult than at any time since the Civil War. This session will provide a framework for initiating this important work in a respectful environment where all are encouraged to share and listen. With perception and student achievement data as a foundation, this process will bring representatives with a variety of perspectives to the table to engage in the difficult conversations that are critical to promoting understanding and better serving ALL students. 


  1. Be introduced to a format for engaging families and communities in critical conversations that welcome civil discourse among people of diverse backgrounds and opinions.
    2. Provide an avenue for addressing this important work in a manner that educates, informs, and helps to support school boards and school leaders.
    3. Using available local data, answer the question: “are we truly providing all students with equitable, quality educational programs and services?” 


Stealing Marketing Ideas from the Private Sector

Dr. Donnie Whitten, Vice President, Apptegy   

We know school leaders are now running their districts like a business and leading through the lens of a CEO. This session will provide a high-level overview of marketing ideas and strategies that schools can implement from the private sector, including reaching all stakeholders from all backgrounds. 


Honoring our Community-Based Histories and Perceptions by Intentionally Shifting from a School-centric to a Community-Centered Authentic Engagement Approach

Alena Zachery-Ross, Superintendent; and Dr. Carlos Lopez, Assistant Superintendent, Ypsilanti Community Schools 

This session focuses on ways that leaders can create authentic culturally responsive community partnerships that intentionally promote and embrace the unique cultural knowledge that is consistent with the lives of their students. It offers strategies used at Ypsilanti Community Schools to engage our diverse students, families, and community in co-creating great opportunities for our students. We offer unique ways of engaging our diverse community by incorporating and celebrating aspects of community within our schools and classrooms. We will share innovative ways we used to engage our students, families and community that are authentic and celebrates the community members’ funds of knowledge such as the implementation of our Resiliency Center, Town-Hall Meetings, Listen and Learn Sessions, F.A.C.E. Conference, and other ways of engaging families in co-creating opportunities where their unique cultural knowledge is leveraged to help us better serve their children well. We will also share ways in which we intentionally advocate for a sense of belonging, relationship, compassion, and critical love.