The Wisconsin Association of School Councils originated at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1935 as the Wisconsin High School Student Council Association (WHSSCA).
For the first eleven years the state conference was sponsored by and held at UW-Madison. During the eleventh state conference, while at a sponsors breakfast, Gerald Van Pool expressed his concern about the state organization and his disappointment about how the state conference and Association were being run. As a result he agreed to serve as the Executive Secretary to strengthen the loose-knit organization.
Van Pool served for one year (1946-47) before accepting a job at the National Student Council Association based in Washington, D.C. In 1947 the first state conference held away from the University was in Oshkosh. During this conference, Van Pool convinced the WHSSCA to join the national association.
The next major change in the Association happened in January of 1948 under the direction of Bernard A. Kennedy, Prairie du Chien, when the name of the Association changed from the WHSSCA to the Wisconsin Association of Student Councils (WASC) and the responsibility of publicizing the Association was turned over to the Executive Secretary. Term of office, 1947-1951.
The Association’s third Executive Secretary was George Heatherington who served this position for six years before becoming the postmaster of LaCrosse, 1951-1957. Ralph Mitby, Janesville, who served as Executive Secretary from 1957-1959, succeeded Heatherington. He retired at the end of 1959 to help take care of the 1960 National Conference that was going to be held at Janesville Junior and Senior High School.
In 1959 Donald A. Wendt, Madison, became Executive Secretary and would serve the Association for the next 13 years. The 1960’s proved to be difficult times for the WASC as protest was common and the demand for change was constant. But the WASC survived.
During this time span the monthly WASC Newsletter was created and the job as editor become the Executive Secretary’s responsibility. Another big change occurred in 1961 when the first WASC Summer Leadership Workshop was organized by Gerald Van Pool and Donald A. Wendt and held in Stevens Point.
In 1972, Larry Hanson, Plainfield, was elected the 6th Executive Secretary. During his one-year term, WASC achieved sponsorship by the Wisconsin Secondary School Administrators Association (WSSAA). This was accomplished after development of a new constitution and by-laws for the organization. Ratification of the new constitution in October of 1973, brought about major changes followed including the creation of a State Governing Board and Executive Committee consisting of an equal number of students and adults elected from six regions, with equal representation between the JAM schools (junior high and middle school) and the high schools; changing the state conference from fall to spring; and requiring each region to have two annual meetings. This change made the WASC the only student council organization in the country in which students and adults has as equal number of voting delegates. The Association established a monthly publication called NEWS NOTES in 1973.
The new constitution for the WASC and the subsequent sponsorship by WSSAA resulted in hiring Donald C. Larsen in the fall of 1973 as the first shared WSSAA/WASC Executive, serving the sponsoring organization as their Associate Executive Director and WASC as Executive Director, a position name change. In addition, the word “Student” was replaced with “School” in the organizational name, a term which more accurately described school membership organizations. The first WASC State Office was established in Stevens Point and moved to Madison in 1979. Several programs were started in the 70’s for students and advisors to improve their leadership skills.
1973 – Annual WASC Advisor Conference
1975 – Cheer/Pom Camps
1977 – Annual National Honor Society State Conferenc
1979 – Annual Elementary School State Conference
During the eighties, the State Conference reached the site capacity of 1300 delegates; advanced summer leadership camps were begun; Association membership surpassed 400 schools; an affiliate membership program for elementary schools was added; WASC sponsored the first Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches (WACPC) in 1988; initiated the State Advisor of the Year Program; and presented seminars on Student Handbooks and All-School Activity Codes.
The golden anniversary state conference in 1985, co-hosted by Madison LaFollette High School and Milwaukee Bay View High School, was a highlight of the decade. In 1988-89, the Warren E. Shull National Advisor of the Year program was started.
Association growth and change continues in the nineties. Two additional state offices were added to the Association representing JAM schools. Due to site capacity limits, the state conference was split into two separate conferences in 1992-93, High School and JAM. Mukwonago Parkview hosted the first JAM state conference. The fall WASC Officer/Advisor Conference, started in 1989, was expanded to two programs held at different sites in 1994.
The WASC Governing Board ratified the WASC FOUNDATION and ENDOWMENT organization on December 15, 1997. On the same date, the WASC TORCH BEARERS, an organization for individuals who have been affected by, involved with and interested in continued involvement with the WASC, came into existence. In 1999 the fifth level of leadership camp was started. On January 1, 1998, the shared executive officer position with the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA), the organization succeeding the Wisconsin Secondary School Administrators Association (WSSAA), was terminated due to the retirement of Donald C. Larsen from the role of AWSA Associate Director. However, he continued to serve WASC as their Executive Director until June 30, 2000.
Roger L. Chambers succeeded Donald Larsen as Executive Director on July 1, 2000 – 2005.
Michelle M. McGrath succeeded Roger Chambers as Executive Director on July 1, 2005.
Throughout the years, many individuals have donated their time and talents to assure the continuance of a viable state student council organization in Wisconsin. Without their support and contributions, the WASC would not have developed into one of the strongest student leadership development programs in the nation. During this century, the WASC is anticipating continued success in meeting the leadership development needs of students and staff members in Wisconsin’s elementary and secondary schools.