As School Opens, Relationships First!

MESPA Monday Memo
August 29, 2016
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Topic: Back to School Ideas
Opening of School Wishes: Relationships First
There is nothing quite like “Opening Day” with its excitement and aspirations tinged with butterflies and a bit of wistfulness for summer’s end. Principals are geared up for their opening meetings with staff – a time to identify priorities and set the tone for the coming year.  No matter how thoughtful the opening presentation or engaging the opening activity, it’s important to remember that relationships come first.  

The first issue of the year of Educational Leadership arrived last week to provide a timely reminder of just that. The theme of “ Relationships First” focuses on building relationships with students and includes several worthwhile pieces on making connecting with students with various needs.  A strong connection to the work in Massachusetts that I wrote about last week to promote the importance of social emotional learning in schools.  

But relationships with staff matter just as much.  In a piece called “ The Principal Factor,” Tim Westerberg reminds us that: “ (P)rincipals play a lead in establishing relationships among adults within the school. In fact, if we consider both the direct impact of the school principal and his or her indirect influence over selecting and developing teachers, building leadership may be the most important factor in establishing a stable, warm and trusting environment for teachers and students.” He goes on to outline six “principles” of leadership that ensure we put relationships first – for staff and students.  

Tim’s piece echoes the work of Roland Barth, the founder of the Harvard Principals’ Center, who suggested: “The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.”  

Tim may downplay his principles as “ a blinding flash of obvious,” but pieces like his help us make what we do more explicit and intentional. If you are an ASCD member, you can read more at:

Wishing you all a successful opening of school. May you set the tone that will support a “stable, warm and trusting  environment” for teachers and students in the coming year.  

Rick Rogers
MESPA Executive Director
From the MESPA Blog
This Week’s Post: Our Favorite Books
by Adam Welcome and Todd Neloney
We are pleased to have Adam and Todd, the co-writers of Kids Deserve It and co-founders of the #KidsDeserveIt movement, contribute to our blog this week. They remind us of the power of reading to a classrooms full of students and suggest some favorite titles.  And be sure to follow them at #KidsDeserveIt !  This is a good one to share with your teachers.

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In Case You Missed it…
Professional Learning at MESPA This Year


    Working in partnership with Ribas Associates, MESPA is providing 31 workshops (including on-line options) for teachers and school leaders in the areas of:
    • Addressing the Social-Emotional Learning Needs of All Students
    • Strengthening Collaborative Teacher Teams
    • Developing Leadership Skills
    Your teachers can register at the membership rate if you are a member. A complete program of studies and registration form can be found at:

Leadership Coaching 

Coaching can be beneficial for all school leaders - not just those who are new. Even Tom Brady has a quarterback coach! The MESPA Leadership Coaching program utilizes a “strength-based” model and a collaborative process that includes reflection and self-assessment. MESPA will provide a customized matching process between coach and principal. Interested in having a coach?  Please contact us or talk to your Superintendent, who also received information about our program.


Coming Soon: Regional Principals’ Support Groups

Watch for the brochure announcing our new regional support groups for principals coming next week.
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