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Fall 2023 - President's Message

What Matters?

August 21, 2023

Photo of WSPA president Katie Johnson in pink jacket on playground

President's Message

Have you ever been part of a group project where you did all the work and the other group members just watched?  Or worse yet, they disengaged?  I know you have, because you’re a School Psychologist who has Type A tendencies and carried every group you’ve ever been in.  I’ve been in those groups too.  They feel heavy and discouraging.  You are simultaneously angry and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders because you want a good grade on this project.  

I want to tell you about a very different group project – WSPA’s summer Long-Range Planning (LRP).  Ashley Long, our Association Manager and I did a lot of planning before LRP.  We combed through our strategic plan, which we need to complete by 2025.  We combed through all the meeting minutes from the last two years, looking at what we’ve said we would do and what we actually have done.  We combed through committee action plans from last year and created a new plan template for this year.  We met time and again with our outgoing treasurer Cristin Jones to get a handle on our income and expenses.  And we met with the executive board to talk about concerns and successes.  We planned the heck out of Long-Range Planning.  

But then we got there, rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  And something amazing happened.  Committees started meeting in program areas and working together to meet our goals.  Committees started joining forces on similar tasks.  The Regional Representatives, long a group with very little direction, got together, appointed themselves a leader and created a plan.  A really good plan.  The Convention Committee got together, talked about how the year had gone, and the challenges they had faced, and created a bunch of systems to support their work.  The new and outgoing Treasurers dove into the budget to find ways to make up our shortfall and keep this organization running with all the fantastic offerings you have come to expect.  Everyone was energized and engaged. 

The work we needed to do to create systems of structure and support for the organization was done.  The work I thought we would begin that day and engage in all year.  Done.  And even better than I had imagined.  It was the best group project ever.  I am SO PROUD to be able to support the board of this organization.  They are smart, talented, hardworking, and fun.  They rose to challenges.  They did hard things.  

Now almost every single committee has a targeted action plan, support to carry it out and a way to communicate with the other board members.  We have a budget for the year that is projected to balance.  We will keep existing WSPA offerings and add new ones, bringing value to your membership.  

Thank you, WSPA board members.  You do the work of this organization.  Thank you executive board members for providing leadership.  Thank you Ashley for supporting all our work and keeping us faithful to our goals.  We are strong because of you.  And we are strong because of our members.  Thank YOU for your support of WSPA.  It matters.

All this isn’t to say that there haven’t been hard things.  As with the costs of everything else, our Association costs have risen exponentially.  Hotel expenses for conventions are much higher than we anticipated.  Our website host doubled their fee, and charges transaction fees, which are substantial around convention times.  Our board had much discussion about our budget and our priorities.   We’ve created a committee to study our conventions and make a recommendation about the possibility of making some changes to our convention format (there are pros and cons).  We believe strongly that we are the single best provider of professional development to Wisconsin School Psychologists and have reaffirmed our commitment to continue meeting the needs of practitioners, trainers and students in our state.  We have also re-affirmed the value we get from the services our lobbyist and our association manager provide.  We could not be as nimble, as proactive or provide the services we do without them.  So that means we need to make some changes.  We need to make sure that we negotiate with hotels to find the best rates available, we need to keep a close eye on association costs, and yes, we must raise our dues and convention rates.  

The board had a long conversation about raising dues and convention rates.  None of us want to do that.  But in order to keep up with rising costs, we felt that we needed to raise more income.  Everything just costs more now.  But we did our best to keep that increase minimal, and to keep our value high and growing.  We hope you feel the value of your WSPA membership.  We certainly see you using it in your convention attendance, newsletter readership and online training participation.  We want to maintain and even grow that value, while keeping costs as low as possible.  We know that school and personal budgets are tight, and we do not take any dues or convention rate increase lightly, but we do need to cover the costs in order to have a vibrant and growing association.

You may also have noticed that we changed our website/financial hosting platform.  Again, this wasn’t a decision that we made lightly.  It is a lot of work to change these programs.  But they were simply cost prohibitive.  Our incoming Treasurer (and de facto Tech Chair), Ericka Check completed loads of research at a breakneck pace to find us a new website host before our old host automatically renewed at twice it’s previous rate.  She and Ashley made calls and completed trial runs and made a presentation to the board about options.  We decided to make the move to a new site and then the real work began.  Ericka and Ashley worked tirelessly this summer (after earlier this summer I announced to Ashley that she and I were taking July and the beginning of August off because we’d put in so much time last school year) to create the new site, building it from scratch.  They are so excited for you to explore the new site.  We know it’s not likely to be perfect, but we hope it meets our needs as an association.  And we hope you’ll find it more user-friendly. 

It's a lot of changes all at once.  But our board thought it was the right thing to do for our members.  It’s a fantastic group project and you are along for the ride.

So come see us at our fall convention, held October 26 & 27 in beautiful La Crosse.  We have a dynamite lineup of speakers including our own past WSPA President Tonya Klem talking about dyslexia, along with a host of other fantastic presenters.  We also have some fun planned to go along with our training, because the La Crosse area specializes in fun!  It is shaping up to be a great convention and a great time to connect with colleagues.

And watch for our other offerings.  Our social media campaign, WSPA Wednesdays, are back with more content about the Association and School Psychology in Wisconsin.  WSPA Workshops, our lunchtime online offerings, are back too.  We’ll be supporting your work in the legislature (watch our loan forgiveness bill as it continues to move through the process) and working closely with DPI to support new initiatives and information.  And we’ll keep you apprised of our work through our newsletter the WSPA Sentinel.  It’s a wealth of Wisconsin specific information.  

And when you are at the convention, stop and see me.  Or reach out by email.  I’d love to know what matters to you.  I hope you know that you matter to me.  And that school psychologists matter to the kids in Wisconsin – a whole lot.  WSPA is proud to partner with you in your vital work with kids.

Katie Johnson, EdS, NCSP

WSPA President

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