Permeating the Culture of a State Association

by Pat Reeves

In the four years since Courageous Journey was launched, the impact has permeated the Michigan Association of School Administrators. Already, 16 of 47 council and executive board members have joined a cohort.

The Courageous Journey’s Seven Points of Learning (or seven major superintendent responsibilities) help frame the organization’s professional development and leadership work and influence the themes for state conferences. At its conference in January, MASA rolled out a “share-casing” format with poster and breakout sessions featuring systemic change and improvement work involving Courageous Journey participants.

These changes are outward signs of a major cultural shift in the state association. While members still value professional networking, shaping legislation and policy, advocating for students and staying current on timely issues, they demonstrate a growing appreciation for building a shared practice as school district leaders.

Keynote speakers for conferences are selected for their ability to contribute to this work. They also are chosen with an eye toward building long-term relationships with researchers, authors and consultants who offer evidence-based work in school district and superintendent-level leadership.

Michigan has opened new territory with a credentialing system that recognizes preparation, performance and impact in school leadership. MASA played a lead role in shaping this credentialing system and establishing professional associations as providers of credentialing programs.

MASA’s executive director, William Mayes, and staff continue to work with other professional associations, the Michigan Department of Education and universities to achieve a coherent and aligned system that actually builds shared practice. This mission is endorsed by the Michigan Association of School Boards, whose executive director Kathy Hayes says, “What an opportunity to work together to improve the quality of leadership for our schools.”

Courageous Journey has become a beacon for this work and a convener of learning leaders who see the superintendency as an opportunity make districts work for schools so schools can work for students.

The program has its own website, which includes videos and PowerPoint presentations, at