AWSP & WASA's Strategic Collaboration

Dr. Scott Seaman, Executive Director, AWSP
Oct 06, 2023


Dear School Leader,

I hope your year is off to a great start. I’ve heard incredible stories from principals and assistant principals across the state about the positive energy and enthusiasm in your classrooms, hallways, and playgrounds. Some even dared to use the word “normal” to describe the start of the year.

While I love hearing success stories related to the positive start of the school year, I know the realities of your jobs will surface again as the back-to-school honeymoon ends. That’s why I am adding one more email to your inbox today. I want to share the collaborative journey AWSP and the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) have embarked on to improve the quality of life for school leaders now and in the future.

Back in June, we gathered a small cadre of principals, superintendents, and staff members from AWSP and WASA to begin identifying short-term and long-term solutions to the leadership crisis in our state. We must do something to reverse the course of high turnover rates, small candidate pools, and decreased job satisfaction. While the focus of this committee is starting with easing the pressure on principals, it is much larger in scale. It’s about the entire leadership pipeline in our K12 educational system. If we want great future superintendents, we must cultivate and support future and current school leaders.

Without turning this brief message into a mini-novel, here are AWSP and WASA’s three collective short-term targets for improvement.

1. Teacher Evaluation

Many principals and superintendents cite employee evaluation, most notably teacher evaluation, as being increasingly difficult to manage, driving principals toward compliance as opposed to a genuine focus on improving instruction and student learning. Our representatives to the TPEP steering committee, Kim Fry and Jack Arend, have raised this issue for discussion on the committee. We also wonder, after nearly 15 years with TPEP in place, if it’s time to look at TPEP’s influence on student learning. For TPEP to be effective, we must figure out how to make it meaningful and manageable.

2. Student Discipline

Another area of common interest among AWSP and WASA members is student discipline. Many superintendents and principals are expressing a high degree of frustration with current rules, regulations, and restrictions. We have been in conversation with OSPI and that conversation will continue in the weeks and months to come. We have no desire to push for changes that exacerbate disproportionality and yield the exclusion of more students from access to the educational program and the learning opportunities that come with it.

We need to ensure there is a consistent and accurate understanding of what can and can't be done with the rules. We are engaging in conversations to share concerns and suggest changes that might be more reasonable, manageable, and less problematic in practical application, with appropriate consideration for student/adult safety and disruption of the learning environment.

3. Administrative Leave

While we haven’t formally gathered data, we know the frequency with which school staff, including principals, are placed on paid leave during an investigation has increased significantly in the past few years. This is particularly problematic when the individual placed on leave is ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing - and even more so when the allegations are found to be completely baseless. The perception of being “guilty until proven innocent” and the damage that can be done to the reputation of an individual who is completely without fault is particularly concerning and unfair when perception lingers, and it can sometimes derail future career opportunities. We have been working with risk management, legal, and the Washington State Personnel Association to frame this issue and possibly develop some best practice considerations for districts to use when deciding when and how to place an individual on paid leave during an investigation.

These are our short-term targets because they connect directly to the daily pressures and demands of your work. Stay tuned for updates throughout the coming months in each of the above areas. If you have any feedback, ideas, and/or suggestions, please reach out to me directly.

One final note: the Wallace Foundation’s 2021 research report said,

It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership. 

Great leadership makes great schools in which our students can thrive. Thank you for your continued amazing leadership!


Scott Seaman's signature

photo of scott seaman in a suit from the shoulder ups Dr. Scott Seaman

Executive Director


  • TPEP
  • partnership
  • discipline
  • WASA
  • Advocacy & Legislation
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