Starting in July of 2018, NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center began recognizing outstanding volunteer advocates who dedicate their time to advancing the policy and civic priorities of school leaders, public education, and students across America. Recognized quarterly, the Principal Advocate Champion is someone who has made a powerful impact on the direction of public education policy through their personal engagement with state and federal policymakers and their ability to organize grassroots support behind NASSP advocacy initiatives.

We are proud to announce Dr. Rick Carter as the first Principal Advocate Champion of 2018. Dr. Carter is the Executive Director of Innovative Programs at Athens City Schools in Athens, AL. Before his current administrative role with the district, Dr. Carter was a high school principal and educator for 15 years. For his outstanding commitment to his school and students, he was named the Alabama Principal of the Year in 2013.

Beyond his work in the classroom, Dr. Carter is a committed advocate and leader who devotes countless volunteer hours as a state coordinator with NASSP. In this role, he coordinates federal legislative advocacy for school leaders in Alabama, holding regular meetings and developing relationships with his elected representatives.

“Regularly visiting, connecting, and staying in constant communication with lawmakers makes it so that when an opportunity comes to advance our policy agenda, we have a seat at the table,” Dr. Carter says. “It’s important to build relationships early so that you can advocate for a significant piece of legislation that may come our way. The results are often long term, but having relationships in place earlier in the process pays off down the line. I believe we make a big difference.”

NASSP state coordinators are also grassroots organizers in addition to being advocates themselves, and Dr. Carter excels at developing networks of other educators who are willing to speak to their elected officials for the issues that are important to Alabama schools. Despite being a smaller state, Alabama consistently overperforms on NASSP’s campaigns, often ranking among the top states in the country for total advocates who contact their representatives about the issues that matter most to America’s school leaders.

Earlier this year, Dr. Carter attended the annual NASSP Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. to learn how he could make an even greater impact on public policy. At the conference, he joined a strong delegation of Alabama school leaders for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, and they met with every single office of the state’s Congressional delegation. Together with hundreds of other school leaders from across the country—and braving an unseasonable snow storm—conference attendees demanded adequate funding of critical education programs like Title II, Part A of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and additional measures to improve school safety. The personal stories and messages from various schools and communities were heard loud and clear, and shortly after the day on the Hill, public education scored a major victory in the FY 2018 omnibus funding legislation.

At the state level, Dr. Carter is also heavily involved with the state principals’ association and NASSP affiliate, the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS). He stays active by meeting and advocating with state lawmakers throughout the annual legislative session. As a result, CLAS has had some big victories in recent years; they were recently successful in crafting language for legislation around Alabama’s startup and conversion charter schools. Thanks to the persistence of Dr. Carter and other CLAS leaders, the state ended up providing necessary funding for the program to get off the ground. Dr. Carter has now been able to visit district presidents.

“It can be tough to find the time to be an advocate while still fulfilling all of the duties of being a principal, but it’s worth the effort,” Dr. Carter says. “It’s been extremely helpful that NASSP and CLAS have prepared me with the skills we need to advocate for these policies.”

For more on the great work that Dr. Carter is doing, be sure to follow him on Twitter @DrRickCarter1.

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