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The following six principals have been selected as finalists for 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level and High School Principal of the Year awards:

Middle Level Finalists
Laurie Barron

GA

Judy Beard
SC
Shana Perry
OK

High School Finalists
Jimmy Casas
IA
Trevor Greene
WA

David Ryan
NH

Meet the finalists! Check out these interviews from the National Middle Level and High School Principal of the Year Finalists.


POY finalist

Laurie Barron
Smokey Road Middle School
Newnan, GA
796 students
Grades 6-8

Laurie Barron
Smokey Road Middle School
Newnan, GA

When Laurie Barron became the principal of Smokey Road eight years ago, the school of nearly 800 students was plagued by discipline problems, high absenteeism, and low student achievement. By building trusting relationships and promoting shared leadership, however, Barron was able to restore confidence among students, teachers, and community members.

Under Barron’s leadership, stakeholder input is highly valued; teachers receive meaningful professional development and leadership opportunities; and most importantly, students benefit from constant recognition, personal relationships with adults in the building, and customized instruction based on data outcomes.

“Dr. Laurie Barron motivates her students and teachers daily and she…is always moving throughout the hallways each morning encouraging students, listening to concerns, and monitoring everything that takes place,” said Marc Guy, assistant superintendent of Coweta County Schools.

Today, Smokey Road is regularly recognized for its achievements. The diverse middle school, which made AYP for the last six years, was named a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students in poverty. It has also received distinction as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for the past four years. “Laurie loves all her students and goes the extra mile to reach them,” Guy added.

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POY finalist
Judy Beard
 Loris Middle School
Loris, SC
679 students
Grades 6-8

Judy Beard
Loris Middle School
Loris, SC

When Judy Beard became the principal of Loris in 2005, Beard refused to let statistics impede student learning. Loris is a rural, diverse middle school, and 80% of its students come from generational poverty. Instead of conceding to the low expectations they’d been dealt for most of their lives, Beard earned students’ trust and slowly restored their faith in adults. She rallied staff members and together they developed a five-year plan that focused on positive school behavior, literacy across the curriculum, and high expectations for all stakeholders.

To support the plan, Beard stocked classrooms with thousands of new books, carved out time each day for student reading, and put laptops in the hands of all seventh graders. She also established professional learning communities to provide teachers with a forum for analyzing data; encouraged teachers to earn master degrees and become nationally board certified; and conducted regular classroom walk-throughs with her iPad, providing feedback in real time.

Her persistence and undeniable tenacity has clearly paid off. Over the last several years, the school has accumulated an array of awards for student achievement and service learning. Now, marking a turn of events, other schools look to Loris for strategies on differentiated instruction, peer feedback, and the integration of technology.

“Focused, relentless leaders like Judy Beard are often the best hope for a better tomorrow for our neediest students,” said H. T. Lee, executive director for middle schools in Horry County, SC. “Ms. Beard tackles the challenge of working in a high-poverty school through collaborative leadership. She realizes the work is daunting and requires a team effort to best create conditions in which all students can be successful.”

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POY Finalist
Shana Perry
Del Crest Middle School
Del CIty, OK
570 students
Grades 6-8

Shana Perry
Del Crest Middle School
Del City, OK

When Shana Perry came to Del Crest in 2007, the school was just beginning its turnaround journey. Fights broke out regularly, staff collaboration was disjointed, and most stakeholders had mentally checked out. Data showed that the needs of the school’s racially diverse, high-poverty students were not being met.

By restoring order and establishing a safe, welcoming environment, Perry was able to redirect the staff’s focus to student learning. Led by Perry, professional learning communities, data analysis teams, and professional development allowed teachers to strengthen instruction and personalize learning.

To equip students with appropriate resources, Perry established parent outreach programs, provided struggling students with transportation to tutoring, and developed home-based tutoring resources for parents. She also pulled the community in to help cover the basics. Now, meals and snacks are donated for tutoring sessions and the school’s most needy families receive staples over extended breaks.

“Armed with a passion for her students, a collaborative spirit, research-based knowledge…and a can-do/will-do attitude, Mrs. Perry works tirelessly to ensure the success of her students and her school,” said Silvya Kirk, director of secondary teaching and learning for Mid-Del Schools in Midwest City, OK.

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POY Finalist
Jimmy Casas
Bettendorf High School
Bettendorf, IA
1,415 students
Grades 9-12

Jimmy Casas
Bettendorf High School
Bettendorf, IA

Principal of Bettendorf since 2002, Jimmy Casas is committed to paying it forward. With 18 years of experience in administration, Casas regularly mentors teachers and aspiring principals. He has been a mentor for 14 clinical practicum students in educational leadership programs and has worked with student teachers at a local university. He also developed programs in his own school to support new teachers and encourages veteran teachers to take on leadership roles.

“Mr. Casas’s leadership has aided students, staff, parents, and the community in setting very high expectations and believing they can achieve them,” said Theron Schutte, superintendent of the Bettendorf Community School District.

Armed with those high expectations, Casas and his staff members took several steps to improve student achievement—and increase the graduation rate. They dramatically grew their Advanced Placement program, prioritized student recognition, and put data at the center of decisionmaking. Casas also created a program to reach at-risk students through home visits, helped initiate a 1:1 iPad program, and encouraged his students to start the first RSVP (Raising Student Voice & Participation) chapter in Iowa.

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POY Finalists
Trevor Greene
Toppenish High School
Toppenish, WA
717 students
Grades 9-12

Trevor Greene
Toppenish High School
Toppenish, WA

Located on the Yakama Indian Reservation, Toppenish High School serves a 95% minority student population—and nearly 100% of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Returning to the reservation where he grew up, Trevor Greene has helped his 717 students reach previously unimaginable levels of success.

“Mr. Greene…sought to first understand the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive developments of his students and…then buil[t] systems and implemented sustainable programs to engage and motivate them to achieve at high levels,” said Eric Diener, principal of neighboring Wapato High School.

In his four years leading Toppenish, Greene has raised the bar on expectations and has created “a school climate that is warm, inviting, safe, and secure,” said John Cerna, superintendent of Toppenish School District. 

Greene established high-profile engineering and biomedical programs, implemented an advisory program, expanded opportunities for special education students, and formed invaluable community partnerships. Thanks to his efforts, students now have access to rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses and can earn up to 30 college credits from the University of Washington by the time they graduate from high school. In addition, relationships with local businesses allow greater access to postsecondary opportunities.

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POY Finalist
David Ryan
Nashua High School
Nashua, NH
1,854 students
Grades 9-12

David Ryan
Nashua High School
Nashua, NH

 “During David’s tenure, Nashua North has seen the focus change from the teacher teaching, to the student learning,” said Keith Richard, an assistant principal at Nashua North. “He has worked hard to ensure [that] all Nashua North students are given an opportunity to the best education.”

When he took over the urban school just two years after it opened, Ryan was excited to work with the committed staff. He established high expectations, carefully sought teacher buy-in, and created a culture that underscores shared ownership and collaboration. By establishing a strong foundation and making changes that directly affect student learning, Nashua North reduced its failure rate from 10.4% in 2007-08 to 6.5% in 2010-11.

Part of the school’s success has been largely due to the foundation set for incoming freshmen. Ryan introduced visits to local middle schools, created a freshman open house event, and worked with colleagues to make the first day of school “freshmen only.” A freshman academy also provides students the personalization that is critical to a smooth transition to high school.

Under Ryan’s leadership and direction, student learning has improved exponentially through better instruction—and Nashua North has become a place that all students are proud to attend.

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* * * * *

These six principals will be interviewed on July 24, in Washington D.C., by a panel of judges seeking to name one middle level and one high school principal as the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Principals of the Year.

The search for the national principal of the year began in early 2012 as each state principals' association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. The national middle level and high school winners will be named in September and recognized in Washington, D.C., during the Principals' Institute for State Principals of the Year, September 19-22, 2012.

The six finalists each receive a $1,500 grant. The two national award winners receive an additional grant of $3,500. The grants are used to promote the advancement of learning opportunities for students or other related investments such as capital improvements, the purchase of technology-related equipment, or funding specific educational programs.