My 10 years as the Executive Director at MASSP have been incredible. Although it has been 10 years since I left my position as the Principal at Rochester High School, it seems like just yesterday that I was in that chair. I still get those feelings of excitement and anxiety thinking about the start of school and all that goes with this incredibly busy time of year. As I look at the current landscape and what the role of a principal is now, I realize there has been transformational change, and it has been a true leadership challenge for me as well. Even though the times have been very tough these last few years, I can’t thank the MASSP Board of Directors, the MASSP Membership, and the Staff at MASSP enough for the opportunity to lead such an amazing organization.

With 10 years under my belt, I am often the most senior person in the room when I meet with other Association Executive Directors. The turnover in all roles in public education has been significant, making my years of experience (18 years as a teacher, Assistant Principal/AD & Principal) very valuable. I’ve worked with four different State Superintendents during my tenure, and my Executive Director colleagues at the Superintendents (MASA), Teachers (MEA) and School Board (MASB) Associations have all turned over due to retirements. MASSP has been in existence for 110 years, pretty amazing, ‘eh? I am only the fifth Executive Director. As an Association we have thrived, in part, due to the longevity of our Association leadership. It takes time and experience to gain a deep understanding of public policy at the state and national level, the functions of state government – MDE and all the other offices and to then translate the nuisances of how policy will impact members statewide. 

While we’ve experienced great change around us, the core team at MASSP has pretty much been with me since the start. Angel Brewer, MASSP’s Director of Events and Office Operation, has been at MASSP for 20 years. Our lobbyist Bob Kefgen was my first hire, we’ve been together for nine years. Colin Ripmaster, our Deputy Executive Director was my second hire, and we’ve benefited greatly from his eight years of leadership. Matt Alley, Associate Director of Student Services joined our team in 2014 and our student side of the house has thrived on his watch. We’ve also been fortunate to add amazing people to our team to grow the association and provide more member support and resources than ever.

Long time members of MASSP will note many of the changes we have made at the Association since 2011:

  • The make-up of the Board of Directors and the bylaws have undergone significant changes allowing the Board to be more inclusive and representative of our membership
  • We pivoted our focus to providing principals with professional development, support, and service
  • Our Path to Leadership alternative route to administrator certification program has been incredibly successful and we’ve helped over 500 people to become certified K-12 principals
  • MASSP’s student side of the house, The Michigan Association of Student Councils (MASC) and The Michigan Association of National Honor Societies (MAHS), moved the Student State Conference to Grand Rapids to double the number of attendees. There has also been a significant addition of programming with a Student Legislative Day at the Capitol and middle school programming
  • Our new website and the launch of our Digital Learning Network (DLN) allows us to engage with members virtually
  • Communication has been ramped up to provide Breaking News updates, Headlines (Mondays) and It’s A Wrap (Thursdays) each week along with special e-newsletters- The Assist, In the Middle With You and a Secretary Special Edition
  • We’ve given more love to Middle School Principals with our monthly In the Middle with You webinars and support to new principals with the New Principal Connect Series
  • Leader2Leader webinars give Principals need to know information as things arise
  • Oh, and did I mention we also did a full-scale renovation of our office and an addition to our building that includes a zoom room?

We have much to be proud of as an Association. The leadership of the Board over the past 10 years has also been amazing. Working with the Board is truly one of the best parts of my job. Their passion, insights and direction fuels and guides our work and the needs, wants, and problems they relay to us give us our marching orders.

I remember well the things I said and promised when I interviewed for this position. I wanted members to “feel the presence” of MASSP in their lives every week (if not daily). I hope this happens for you when you receive a breaking news email, join a Leader2Leader webinar, read our publications or follow us on social media. I wanted to expand our advocacy work so that we could not only react to legislation as it happens but also to influence the creation of it. Lastly, I wanted to provide highly relevant, hot topic professional development to ensure principals can navigate the changing waters they face. I will continue to deliver on these promises in the years to come and as always, I will focus on member service. If I can ever help you or be the listening ear you need, please call me directly 517-899-4322. Being of assistance to a principal in need allows me to use my years of experience and it fills my bucket.

Cheers to 10 more years!

Written by Wendy Zdeb, MASSP Executive Director