The Assist


Survey Results

MASSP offers assistant principals subscribed to this MASSP publication the opportunity to submit questions for surveys.  Please send us your survey questions and ideas (

To view survey results from previous months, click on the links below:

Restorative Practices Survey Results

Classroom Observation Survey Results

December 2021

Programming for EVERY High School Student

As a high school principal, it can be overwhelming to meet the needs of every student ranging from those competing for valedictorian to the truant and failing. Yet, it is our job to help each and every student build a success story.  Although there are various aspects of how to achieve this monumental task, this article will focus primarily on the structures that can be formed so that every student has the appropriate academic rigor and support.

Comfort Dog

Schools around the state are making four-legged additions to the staff! Comfort dogs have been a welcome distraction and support in an incredibly difficult time in public education. Students and staff alike enjoy having a friendly cuddly pooch around to pet, hug and visit during the school day. The December 1, 2021 edition of Edutopia included a great article, 3 Benefits of Having a Comfort Dog in School. You will see many of the sentiments expressed in the article repeated from colleagues around the state who enjoy having a comfort dog at their school.

Meet five high school comfort/therapy dogs and learn about this amazing program! 

PIL3OT Freshman Orientation

People Invested in Learning/Loving/Living Oriole Traditions (PIL3OT) Freshman Orientation

Since stepping out of the classroom and into the admin office, I am constantly looking for opportunities to manufacture positive, relationship building interactions with students. Taking over our freshman orientation has turned out to be one of the best of these opportunities. Not only do I get to connect with incoming freshmen in early August, but I am also able to build relationships with a core group of juniors and seniors who help lead the orientation process. 

Admin 101 | Angry Parent Over Suspension

This Admin 101 column is going to be a new feature in The Assist. The goal of the column is to take a common situation or issue that an assistant principal is likely to face, and provide some ideas and advice on the dos/don'ts of how to handle the situation. If you have a topic that you would like us to address in a future Admin 101 column, please submit it at your convenience and we will do our best to include it in a future publication.

A parent was notified that their child (Student A) was given a five-day suspension for an incident which occurred at the school. They learn through the grapevine that the other student (Student B) was not suspended. They did not have a problem with Student A’s five-day suspension until they learned that Student B was treated differently.  

Podcast Season 6 Episode 7 | APOY 2022 Al Reickard

Michigan's  2022 Assistant Principal of the Year winner, Al Reickard (North Rockford MS), joins the podcast to share insight, tips and more from his career and experiences as an assistant principal and middle-level leader.

A Message from State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice on Sharing School Safety and Security Measures With Your Communities

As you know, there was a horrific shooting at Oxford High School yesterday afternoon. The lives of four high school students were tragically taken and six other students and one teacher were shot, with some in critical condition. The lone-shooter attack that transpired yesterday was senseless, and demonstrates once again that something like this could happen anywhere and at any time.

AP & Dean's Summit 2022


SET SEG Insurance Services Agency Named One of the Best Places to Work in Insurance

For the fourth year in a row, SET SEG was honored with a spot in the top 100 list of Business Insurance Best Places to Work. Every year, Business Insurance runs a survey competition directed at the insurance industry, encouraging employees to provide a review of their place of business with questions pertaining to workplace environment and culture.

September 2021

Efficient & Timely: Virtual Parent Teacher Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences provide a great opportunity for families to connect with their student’s teachers on a personal level. Last year, Sparta High School pivoted from an in-person bullpen model that had families waiting in lines for indeterminate amounts of time to a scheduled virtual model for parent teacher conferences. 

Strategies to Reduce Student Discipline/Student Misbehavior

I cringe a bit as I reflect on my narrow view of discipline and restorative practices early in my career as an assistant principal.  As a necessary means to an end, I would consider the seven disciplinary factors prior to levying consequences for a student. I filled out our custom form, checked each box, and moved on with the (often) punitive consequence. I did not give much thought to why the behavior was occurring (in the first place), nor did I consider whether or not teaching and learning were being considerably impacted by a student’s poor choices. Unfortunately, what I also didn’t know then, was all that was being missed by my narrow lens of discipline and RP. Collectively, as a community, we were missing truly teachable moments and falling considerably short on student accountability, but most of all we were missing critical opportunities to build relationships, connections, and community with our students—the heart of restorative practices and the heart of reducing student misbehavior. Over the next few years, my understanding of restorative practices expanded and ultimately shaped our approach to discipline at Holly Middle School.  

Common Student Discipline Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

Principals are often tasked with addressing student misbehavior and ensuring that appropriate law and Board policy are followed. Imposing discipline, however, most often goes astray due to four common issues: (1) failing to provide adequate due process, (2) failing to consider the seven factors, (3) failing to provide written notice, and (4) failing to check student disability status. 

Admin 101

This Admin 101 column is going to be a new feature in The Assist. The goal of the column is to take a common situation or issue an assistant principal is likely to face and provide some ideas and advice on the dos/dont’s of how to handle the situation. If you have a topic that you would like us to address in the next Admin 101 column please submit it and we will include it next time! 

EdCon22: What’s in it for APs?

MASSP’s premier event of the year is called EdCon. For those who have not attended this event, it spans June 27pm- June 29am and it draws hundreds of assistant principals and principals from all over the State of Michigan. We bring in the best keynote speakers, provide time for practitioner led breakout sessions and opportunities for professional networking. This year we are trying a slightly different format to allow for more role/level collaboration. We will run three concurrent keynotes- Principal Barruti Kafale, author of The Assistant Principal 50 Critical Questions for Meaningful Leadership and Professional Growth, will be the keynote for Assistant Principal attendees.

April 2021

Reframing Professional Learning Communities to Promote Staff Wellbeing

One year, 365 calendar days ago public education as we knew it took on a new look. This look varied for each individual and educational entity as all of us showed resilience and dedication to student learning during an uneasy global climate.  Many of us grieved our traditional school activities: district open houses, high school athletics, first day of school pictures, talent shows, and many more were fond memories as we navigated these uncharted pandemic waters seeking to create a “new” normal.  As a district, we dedicated ourselves to shift from a reactive state to one of an upstream effort (Heath, 2020).  Using Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as the vehicle, this effort focused on strengthening collective teacher efficacy through continued meaningful celebrations and intentional promotion of staff wellness.

4 Ways to Use GEERs Funds for Summer Learning

Worried about the summer slide? Summer learning loss has always been a concern among administrators. Though students have certainly learned new skills this past year, pandemic learning has also exposed and exacerbated deep inequities in our education system.

Going Viral: Virtual Investigations

Despite virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, internal investigations may still be necessary. In-person interviews with face masks might seem easier, but virtual investigations and videoconferences can provide a safer and quicker way to meet face-to-face during this time. Principals should learn how to conduct virtual investigations so that they can conduct an investigation during a school closure or during virtual learning without delay. In addition, virtual investigations may be here to stay thanks to their logistical advantages, convenient scheduling, and increased privacy. 

Master Schedule Challenges

Hear from your eight of your colleagues across the state on what their biggest challenges are in building the master schedule for the 2021-22 school year and what their district is offering this summer in terms of credit recovery for students.

MISTEM Network

The MISTEM Network has great opportunities available for educators.  Below is information regarding a recent grant announcement as well as information about the Professional Learning Series.  Many more opportunities exist within the 16 regions across the state.  Be sure to connect with your MiSTEM Region on opportunities that exist locally.

Test Your Decision Making with Project Gameplan

MASSP has been working on creating on-demand courses that feature an exciting, new style of learning using scenarios and gamification which we are calling Project Gameplan.  These interactive and engaging courses provide current or aspiring administrators with important content and assessments that are presented in a variety of ways including video, slide decks, news articles, quizzes and of course, interactive scenarios.  

Summer Student Leadership

With summer quickly approaching we know building leaders and students alike will be looking for extended opportunities for student engagement and skill development.

January 2021

The Power of Listening and Learning

Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to work at traditional and charter schools on both sides of the state. Two key reminders have held true, regardless of circumstance and specific setting.

The New Title IX Grievance Process: What Role Could an Assistant Principal Play?

The U.S. Department of Education’s new Title IX regulations became effective on August 14, 2020. One of the most significant changes is the elimination of the “single investigator” model and the establishment of four key roles in the Title IX “grievance process”: the Title IX Coordinator, investigator, decision-maker, and appeals officer. Accordingly, multiple school officials, including assistant principals, may now be involved in the Title IX process. This article provides an overview of the key roles and other parts of the grievance process in which Assistant Principals may be involved.   

Teaching in the Online Classroom Webinars

Doug Lemov is a nationally recognized speaker and bestselling author of books such as the Teach Like a Champion series. Recently, he partnered with The Teaching Channel to offer free webinars regarding his highly anticipated new endeavor, “Teaching in the Online Classroom: Surviving and Thriving in the New Normal.” During these webinars, Doug, his writing team and some moderators, highlighted various excerpts from his latest book and played accompanying videos to demonstrate the concepts and strategies that were identified. The webinars were a great opportunity to dive into this new book and start looking for tried and tested methods for teaching synchronously via Zoom and Google Meet, or using pre-recorded, asynchronous videos for lessons. 


MASSP currently has three Assistant Principals on the Board of Directors – our President, Andy Kowalczyk, Assistant Principal at Bay City Central, Jennifer Thunberg, Assistant Principal at Bay City Central and Steve Forsberg, Assistant Principal at Ludington High School.  We asked the three of them to share some thoughts on how MASSP membership is beneficial to their work.


October 2020

Welcome to The Assist 2020!

There has never been a more challenging time to be a school administrator.  All of you are going above and beyond on a daily basis and many of the critical tasks that keep students learning and everyone safe are responsibilities that often fall on the Assistant Principal.  If you happen to have the task of being the scheduler, this has been an incredibly difficult year as it is likely you have re-run the schedule with a variety of options and had to produce a final version in record time.  Those of you who aren’t the scheduler were probably involved with measuring desks, moving furniture, putting tape down in hallways, securing signs, food/tech distribution and making instructional videos to set expectations.  The to-do list has now shifted with many having students and staff back on campus and it is likely the list will grow as circumstances change on a daily basis.  

Please know the MASSP staff recognizes the sacrifices you have been making and we greatly appreciate everything you do to make school function. You are unsung heroes in many cases and MASSP is proud to support and represent you as members.  

As you read this e-newsletter will get some great perspectives from Jennifer Thunberg, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Bay City Central HS, Andy Kowalczyk the Current President of MASSP and an Assistant Principal also at Bay City Central High School and Steve Forsberg Assistant Principal at Ludington High School.  All three of these talented APs were willing to write articles and share their ideas with all of you. If you are interested in contributing an article for our upcoming editions of The Assist, we would love to hear from you. Our members love to learn from each other, and member written articles always have the highest click rates. Click the button below this article to learn how to contribute to The Assist and to view past editions!

Pandemic Leadership at Its Best

I am pretty sure that none of us were prepared during our training to become administrators for a pandemic. The ever-changing target over the past 6 months has had every administrator in Michigan scrambling to stay up to date on the newest executive order, health department guideline, or CDC recommendation. Some of us are now 3 to 4 weeks into a new school year that looks anything but normal. I am not writing anything that you don’t know at this point – but I think there are some keys things that we forget as we get stuck in the hamster wheel right now. You are not alone.

Esports = Student Engagement

MASSP recently announced a new opportunity for students to get involved with Esports. When I say “new opportunity” I mean from the perspective of a statewide league with a playoff and championship structure- the concept of Esports is certainly not new for our students.  I can say with almost 100% certainty if you sent a communication to your student body and asked how many students play SMITE, Rocket League and/or League of Legends you will get many “yups” in response.  These games will be the options for those who choose to compete in the newly formed Michigan High School Esports League (MHSEL). 

2020-21 Mantra: Safety, Flexibility and Strong Individualized Academics: Pandemic Approach Q & A with Ludington High School

Check out MASSP's Q & A with Steve Forsberg and learn how Ludington High is approaching the pandemic, creatively communicating with the community and what they have learned along the way!

  1. What does your schedule look like for face-to-face students?  How are you serving remote students (what % selected remote)? Do you have a hybrid option (what % selected this)? 
  2. How did you communicate these options to families? 
  3. I've noticed you shoot a lot of videos to communicate.  How do you get those out?  Do you see a high view rate? What video seemed to get the most views or attention?
  4. What has been the biggest challenge presented by the pandemic? 
  5. What do you see as a potential silver lining or something you've learned since the pandemic started? 

Unmasking the New Dress Code: Considerations for Student Face Coverings

Assistant principals often have the (un)enviable duty to enforce the student dress code. This year, your school’s dress code should include a new addition: face coverings. 

With limited exceptions, schools in Phase 4 must require face coverings for all students kindergarten through 12th grade when in classrooms, hallways, and indoor common areas and when on a school bus. In Phase 5, student face covering requirements shift from “required” to “strongly recommended.” 

Learn more regarding student's refusal to wear face coverings, medical and religious exemptions, and some final thoughts

School Athletics during COVID-19

School athletics during COVID-19 is a hot-button issue. Some schools have cancelled fall sports, while those that are offering fall sports are pondering potential implications. For assistant principals involved in school athletics, whether as coaches or coach supervisors, becoming and remaining familiar with applicable Executive Orders and agency guidance is essential to ensuring your school’s athletic events are legally compliant and guided by the most current safety standards. While governmental immunity and liability waivers may offer some protection from potential liability, your conduct will be measured against an unsettled and evolving legal landscape.

The potential liability of assistant principals involved in school sports for COVID-related illnesses or injuries will turn, in part, upon the perceived reasonableness or recklessness of their conduct. That perception will likely depend upon compliance with governmental mandates and guidance.

Reminder: Safety Drill Requirements Still in Place

Principals will want to be aware that school safety drill requirements are still in effect – at least for now – for the 2020-21 school year. If you weren't aware of this, your misunderstanding is understandable since most of the other state laws that were suspended for this past spring remain suspended until September 30, but safety drills are the exception. The confusion comes because EO 2020-142 only extended the provisions in the School Aid Act and the Revised School Code and the safety drill requirements are in Michigan's Fire Prevention Code (MCL 29.19).

Read the exact language and get a breakdown of the requirements! 

Are you new (0-3 years) to administration, new to your position or simply in need of support?

MASSP's New Principal Connect series is FREE and will address key topics 6 times this year in 60-minute sessions. Topics include: Communication, Building Culture, Collaboration, Difficult Conversations, Student Voice and Parent Relationships.

The pandemic has made the difficult job of a building administrator even more complex. When you are new and overwhelmed it can be difficult to find a mentor and develop a support network. Principal Connect allows you to make these important connections with statewide colleagues from your desk and are designed for you as assistant principals, deans, and principals of both middle and high school. 

Don't Forget About YOUR OWN Professional Growth

Learning for both students and teachers looks incredibly different this school year.  With so many new learning environments to accommodate remote, virtual or hybrid instruction, your staff has been learning new skills to ensure student success.  

But what about YOU?

It’s incredibly important that administrators are staying informed and planning your own professional learning to ensure student and teacher success.  Why not stay current and move forward in your career and walk the talk by taking online classes yourself in order to gain the experience that your students are also going through?

MASSP has you covered!  In order to assist with the new learning experiences many are facing, we have expanded our online course offerings through the Digital Learning Network. Read more for just a few courses that offer relevant content to your role as an Assistant Principal or Dean of Students, while being flexible and self-paced so you can decide when the best time is to log in and learn.

March 2020

Inclusion Wolf Style

Bay City Central high school is a class A school with 193 students with IEPs. This is our second year using a full inclusion delivery model. Previously, most students with IEPs received their  core classes through Resource Rooms. Our students with IEP’s struggled with discipline and proficiency. We have also struggled to find Special Education teachers certified in the content area needed within the Resource room.  This model wasn’t working.

Searching for Wisdom in All the Right Places: Growing as a School Leader

Growing up, some of my favorite movies were part of the Indiana Jones series. I loved how Indy lived a normal life as a professor, lecturing college students on the history of the world. Little did they know their professor lived a secret life full of adventure, excitement, close calls, and possible doom. When Indiana Jones took off his glasses and tie, he evolved from passionate teacher to an adventurous seeker of wisdom. Jones knew he would never grow in the wisdom department by sitting inside the four walls of his stuffy office looking at the curriculum he was paid to teach. He knew wisdom came through experiences and sometimes unrealistic adventures.  

Math Pathways - Same Math, New Perspective

Imagine a classroom with 50 middle school math students.  There are multiple teachers in the room. One is circulating the room helping individual students and answering questions, while another has a small group of students off to the side and is providing direct instruction.  There is a group of students working together to complete a rich math task. The remaining students are working individually in an online math curriculum that allows them to learn math concepts at their own pace. Nearly all 50 students are at a different place in their math learning and their skill level ranges from Math 7 (7th grade Math) through high school Geometry.  Welcome to Math Pathways, a course designed to break the mold of traditional timelines and allow students to master math concepts at their own pace.

Considerations for Conducting Student Searches

Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door, but it is not always clear when school officials can legally search students. This article focuses on when school officials can conduct both suspicion-based and suspicionless searches.

Beginning to Infuse Social and Emotional Competencies into an MTSS Framework at the Middle Level

As part of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools’ multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), middle school administrators and counselors use a variety of data to schedule students in support courses that best meet their learning needs. In the past, these additional supports focused only on improving students’ academic skills. This year, however, we have created an opportunity to support students in the development of  social and emotional competencies for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in a course named Skills for Success.

Knowing Me Helps We

We work in a people business that focuses on growth, change and potential. As educators, we are professionals at putting others first, being servant leaders and doing whatever it takes to help. But, how do we care for ourselves? Historically, professional development is student focused, data driven and results oriented. At Hamilton High School, we have just begun a journey of self-discovery, self-awareness and self-care for our staff. We believe that the better we understand ourselves, the better we are able to help/understand others.

January 2020

Building Culture and Leading Learning

Do you feel like a first responder working day-to-day putting out fires, triaging issues, mediating conflicts, or defending ineffective or outdated practices?  Do you ever get to the end of the school day and wonder where time went, noting that you haven’t eaten or used the restroom once, nor been in a single classroom? Are you exhausted at night thinking about what you need to address in the morning? If so, you are likely an assistant principal.

As an assistant principal there are two primary responsibilities to your work to ensure a safe, secure and productive learning environment: building culture and leading learning.  If we don’t intentionally focus on these two priorities, we will continue to spend our days and nights reactivating to problems verses changing the odds for student success.

Student Searches Part Two: What School Officials Should Consider Before Conducting Suspicionless Searches

School officials may face situations when they must decide whether a student search is appropriate under the Fourth Amendment. While our last MASSP article focused on when school officials can conduct suspicion-based searches, this article addresses permissible suspicionless searches.

Student Discipline: It Takes More than a Consequence to Change the Future

I vividly remember my middle school principal and the fear that hit my gut every time he would look at me or even walk by. He was six and a half feet tall, weighed close to 400 pounds, and his last name was Kevorkian. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that principal, especially if he never smiled and looked like he could be in the WWF as Andre the Giant’s tag-team partner?

Now as a middle school principal myself, I look back at the steps I took through the narrow, freshly waxed hallways of my middle school and wish I could have had a positive relationship with my principal during those crucial and fragile years. I wish my principal would have been more of a mentor than a monitor, a sculptor instead of a suspender, more friendly and less formidable.  I truly believe if I had been able to have a relationship with my principal, my middle school and high school career would have been more successful, and my GPA would have exceeded a 2.0.

Staying Connected: While moving further away from the classroom. 

Taking that first step out of the classroom and into an administrative role inevitably moves us further away from the regular daily contact classroom teachers have with students. Those of us who previously taught know, the relationships built out of this consistent contact is the most rewarding aspect about being in education. It’s all about the kids! So how do we maintain that relational aspect of education as we become further removed from the classroom with constantly increasing amounts of mandated tasks that aren’t solely focused on time with students? We need to engineer ways to make time to stay connected. 

FMLA and FLSA Basics For Assistant Principals

Having a basic understanding of the FMLA and FLSA can help Assistant Principals to spot potential pitfalls and better understand how employee leave and scheduling situations should be administered.

October 2019

The Assistant Principal and the 'Slash'

More and more the job of Assistant Principal is combined with another role in the high school building. I call it the infamous ‘slash’. It is very common to see titles such as Assistant Principal/College Adviser, Assistant Principal/Testing Coordinator, and the role that I currently hold, Assistant Principal/Athletic Director among many other roles now found in schools. Managing the role of Assistant Principal is challenging in itself without adding on another role. But I am here to tell you that it is not only possible but can be very rewarding as well. While the duties of the AP many times involve discipline and attendance issues, the dual role can provide a little escape from the grind if managed correctly.

Title IX Practical Tips

School administrators face an increasing number of student-to-student and staff-to-student sexual harassment complaints, which has led to an increase in Title IX investigations. As school officials handling many of these investigations, Assistant Principals should be aware of the additional legal requirements that apply in the beginning, middle, and end of a Title IX investigation.

Making Connections: Lighting a Fire in your Staff and Students

I am not a camper, so I am in no way an expert on building a fire, but I do know (thanks to my high school science classes) that in order for fire to ignite, it needs three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. However, being a school leader is something I do know, and culture is something that is talked about all over leadership blogs, articles, books, and tweets. Culture is way more than just a buzzword. Culture is the heart of a school, and the determining factor between success and failure.

Meeting the Social-Emotional Needs of Your Students

I am sure I do not have to tell you how much the role of a high school administrator has changed over the last five, 10, etc. years. If your degree program in administration was anything like mine, it’s also highly likely you didn’t receive much training on how to handle the myriad of situations you may find yourself dealing with today – anxiety-related issues, trauma, LGBTQ topics, conflict resolution, and the list goes on! If I had a silver bullet to give you the perfect solutions for all of these issues, I would be rich. However, I do have a few suggestions to help with navigating some of the topics that you may find beneficial.

Legal Searches in School: Reasonable Suspicion Required

Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door, but in a post-Parkland world, school searches have taken on a new meaning in relation to school safety. When can school officials legally search their students? This two-part series discusses (1) suspicion-based searches and best practices for school officials and (2) suspicionless searches

Good Cop, Bad Cop

There are few relationships in a school more important than the relationship between a principal and assistant principal. A good dynamic between the two will result in the kind of support necessary to navigate two of the most difficult positions in a school district.


August 2019

Communication 101
As Assistant Principals and Deans, much of your day is spent working directly with students and parents. How you approach any given situation will impact the outcome and potentially your relationship with the student and/or parents moving forward. How do you learn to communicate in a positive and effective manner? Unfortunately, these are not the type of practical skills that are taught in an Ed Leadership master’s program, they are developed over time on the job. Here are a few tips to help you improve your communication skills as you start the school year:

From Evaluator to Coach: A Needed Change to Teacher Evaluations
If there is one thing many of us can agree upon, it’s that being evaluated is a stressful and anxiety-filled experience. Knowing the person observing you is watching your every move, listening to your every word and seeing how the students respond to your teaching can make even the most distinguished teacher tense up with nervousness. It’s hard not to respond with anxiety and stress when the process for teacher evaluations is set up in a way that makes teachers feel like they are being judged more than supported. That’s the problem with the evaluation process and something we as school leaders need to change in order for our culture to continue to improve. 

Staff Opening Day: Don’t Forget the Teacher in You!  
Classic 80s movies have come to be ubiquitous on basic cable. I’m the guy who will always stop and watch any of the Rocky movies when they are on. Popular opinion may assert that Rocky IV is the best chapter of the Rocky series – you are also bound to find a few people who argue the Academy Award-winning original Rocky is the best. Although it is hard to argue with Cold War tensions and the character development of the first film, I would contend that Rocky III is the finest film depicting the “Italian Stallion.”

Are You Using the MASSP Website?
MASSP Launched a new website in January of 2019. We provided an overview video to help introduce all of the new features, so as you get back into the swing of things we wanted to highlight a few key areas that may be of interest to you as an Assistant Principal: