The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association honored Grand Haven High School Principal Tracy Wilson as its 2020 Administrator of the Year. The award recognizes school administrators who have shown strong interest in and support for scholastic journalism.
Wilson was recognized as part of an online ceremony April 23, along with other special recognition award winners in the organization’s statewide scholastic journalism contests.
“Tracy understands that it’s not her role to censor or intimidate the student press. She understands the importance of the adviser in coaching students to make ethical and responsible choices,” journalism adviser C.E. Sikkenga wrote in nominating his principal. “Furthermore, she’s a passionate advocate for KIDS.
“She trusts them to do great things she’s also an advocate for the adult experts who work with them.”
Selection is based on a portfolio, which should include letters and other documentation that illustrate support for the journalism program, adviser and students, including:
- Awareness of current issues in journalism
- Journalism’s place in the school curriculum
- Understanding of the role of secondary administrators in journalism curriculum
- Allowing students press freedom
- Encouragement of academic and professional growth
- Personal support and encouragement
Wilson has been principal since 2011. In their nomination, Sikkenga and students and alumni who worked on The Bucs’ Blade newspaper cite numerous instances where Wilson supported the work of journalists even as they covered controversial topics — including the deaths of five students in a car accident on their way to the girls basketball semi-finals, student survivors of sexual assault and the plight of students who are refugees.
Emma Baty, now an editor at Cosmopolitan, said she knew a story she wrote for The Bucs’ Blade about sexual activity among students would “ruffle some feathers.”
“She was incredibly supportive, and told me that she could handle whatever backlash the story would cause,” Baty wrote in a letter of support for Wilson’s nomination. “Like me, she felt that writing about what our students were actually going through was the whole point of high school journalism, and we were doing our classmates a disservice if we didn’t.”
Bucs’ Blade managing editor Caleb Berko recalled a story about the school’s policy of using random breathalyzer testing for alcohol at the entrance to school dances. An American Civil Liberties Union attorney told student journalists the policy was likely unconstitutional.
Berko said he expected there to be some criticism by school administrators for an article that took on Wilson and school policy.
Instead, Berko recalls, Wilson told him: “Caleb, I want to tell you I didn’t care for the way your article makes it look like I’m running my school here. But I also respect how well-researched it is and how well-written it is. Nice work.”
ABOUT THE MICHIGAN INTERSCHOLASTIC PRESS ASSOCIATION
Founded in 1921 and housed in the Michigan State University School of Journalism, the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association is a nonprofit organization composed of scholastic journalism teachers and publications advisers and their students. MIPA is committed to promoting and recognizing excellence in scholastic journalism at all levels through education, training and support of student journalists and their advisers.