MURRAY – The president of a national education organization visited Murray High School on Tuesday as part of a mission to interview top-performing schools about some of their successes.
Gregg Wieczorek is the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and was principal of Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, Wisconsin for 28 years. According to its website, the NASSP is the premier organization for middle school principals, high school principals, and other school leaders across the United States. The association administers the National Honor Society, the National Junior Honor Society, the National Elementary Honor Society, and the National Student Council.
Wieczorek was chosen as NASSP’s member-elect president in July 2020, and he began his term as NASSP president in August 2021. The following month, he set out to visit schools in all 50 states, beginning with West Monroe, Louisiana. So far, he said he’s visited 27 states and interviewed principals from each of the schools to blog about the kinds of ideas they’re implementing.
“Then those ideas are shared with our 17,000 members,” he said. “And the idea is that hopefully people who follow the blog will…reach out to the director and say, ‘Hey, that was a really cool idea, I want to try that. “”
For example, Wieczorek said he always asks principals to name an idea they’ve done — often a morale boost for students and teachers — that cost less than $1,000. MHS director Tony Jarvis said one extremely inexpensive idea that has proven hugely popular is “positive post-its,” in which students and teachers leave notes of encouragement for others.
“It’s super easy, and you know it doesn’t cost me $1,000 to do it,” Jarvis said. “It’s a (tradition) of well-being, and I first started it teacher-to-teacher, but then I encouraged the students to get on board. And it’s not hard for them to s get on board when they see teachers doing this for each other.
Wieczorek said he visits these schools on his way to various educational conferences where he is invited to speak. He said he was traveling to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to speak at the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals’ winter conference – which will make Tennessee the 28th state he has visited. during his tenure – which led him to Murray.
“My first trip was in September, and it was down south,” Wieczorek said. “So I did Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. I did Florida a bit later. It’s the only one (that I’ve visited) in Kentucky. What I do is I choose a route and then I go to (school ranking website) Niche.com and I choose the best-rated schools on my journey.
Wieczorek asked about MHS’s strong base of parents and community volunteers, saying he wanted to find a way for other schools to replicate that.
“How do you develop that?” Wieczorek asked Jarvis. “Because it’s not common. I mean, you can get people to volunteer here and there, but have 30,000 volunteer hours in school (that’s remarkable). My whole push, and the reason I ran for president, is that I want to speak because I’m really concerned about the shortage of teachers in our country. In Jackson, Mississippi, there are 276 vacancies. In Las Vegas, Nevada, there are 400 unfilled teaching positions. And what they’re doing is just doubling the classes, so there’s 50 kids in a class and it’s not going to be quality, it’s not going to meet the needs. So I’m looking for ideas on how to (fix this).
Wieczorek said he thinks one of the reasons fewer people are becoming teachers is that many people have a negative image of what goes on in public schools. He said part of that is due to parents being unhappy with COVID-19 protocols and part can be attributed to a negative perception of the program.
“We have this negative view of educators, and so people don’t want to go into this profession,” Wieczorek said. “But at your school, great things happen here every day, and every school I’ve been to has had great and interesting ideas. And if they were able to share that in a better and more effective way, I think we could change the narrative of what happens in schools and change the narrative of this profession. You do that by having people in your building who see the big things happening, and they can go out into the community and talk about the big things happening. I imagine with this school you have the people in this community who are really supportive of your school and they feel connected to the school and they feel like a part of it.