by Kirk Downing, Principal, Brown Elementary School, Natick, MA

As your MESPA president, I am calling on all of my principal colleagues to join MESPA for the purpose of improving teaching and learning for ALL children.

Principals in Massachusetts, and all around the country, are faced with challenges and expectations that are unprecedented in public education. State mandates, increasing complexities in community challenges, a divided political climate, and social development expectations for children with intensive needs are a few topics that face principals every day. I’ve heard stories from veteran principals who say that the demands on the principal are greater than they have ever been. However, spending extensive time waxing poetically about how the principalship used to be is a fruitless exercise that will only breed frustration and discontent.

Fortunately, principals today know the power of positive mindset.  MESPA has been a great vehicle for me to learn from my colleagues to meet these unprecedented challenges. In addition, my MESPA experience has lifted my spirit and provided me the energy to take it all on.

Our theme this year is to be visible and viable to our constituents, our superintendents, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For us to have stronger influence with these groups we need a robust membership to empower us and raise our voices. Currently we are engaged in regular conversations with Commissioner Chester and the Superintendents on teacher evaluation, school funding, social/emotional development, and many more. Each time our membership base increases our voices get stronger in those conversations.

Last year our membership told us that they wanted more opportunities to help their teachers and students with social/emotional challenges. Together with Ribas and Associates, we have designed a pallet of professional development opportunities that are focused on helping our teachers developed new strategies that will increase the development skills of our students. Click here for more information. In addition, we listened to your feedback about the Spring conference and we are relocating to Devens, MA at the end of March – mark your calendars for March 22-24. Look for more information about the Spring conference to come out soon. We also are excited to offer regional support groups and in district coaching to administrators across the Commonwealth.

Finally, I can’t be more thankful to all my colleagues around the state who lift me up and energize me by sharing their work. We have a wide array of talented principals across Massachusetts who want to share their practice and I have benefitted from their generosity. They have become my support network, my mentors, and my friends. It is truly the greatest benefit I have taken from MESPA. Please contact me directly at kdowning@natickps.org if you want to learn more about MESPA or just want to talk about a challenge you are trying to meet in your school.

I wish you all a wonderful school year and I hope to see you soon.

kirkdowningKirk Downing is the Principal of Brown Elementary School in Natick, MA. He is the current President of MESPA and has been a member for ten years. He was a teacher and assistant principal in Colorado for thirteen years prior to moving Massachusetts in the summer of 2007.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues!

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