Tonight during the opening reception of the 2019 NASSP Advocacy Conference, Dan Richards, principal of Georgetown Middle High School in Georgetown, MA, was announced as the first-ever NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year!

The new Advocacy Champion of the Year award will be presented annually to an individual for outstanding and significant contributions to advancing the policy agenda of NASSP and advocating on behalf of all school leaders to support great public schools and ensure the success of each student. These individuals are current or former principals who volunteer their time to advocate with state and federal policymakers to lead the charge for better education. Additional considerations for the award include engaging student leaders in advocacy and empowering student voice, expanding NASSP’s influence on federal and state lawmakers, increasing the number of grassroots advocates taking action on NASSP campaigns, and developing advocacy leaders in all of their state’s congressional districts.

As the award’s inaugural winner, Richards certainly meets—and often exceeds—all of these expectations. “Dan has sacrificed an enormous amount of time and dedicated so much effort to further NASSP’s advocacy mission,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “He embodies what it means to be a mentor, a leader, an advocate, and a principal.”

As a long-standing member of both NASSP and the Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association (MSAA), Richards takes the time to work with individuals on their needs and build their confidence to be strong advocates for education. In his role as an NASSP State Coordinator, he is the top volunteer advocate for principals in Massachusetts and mentors other state coordinators at NASSP Advocacy Conferences, National Principals Conferences, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Summer Institute.

In 2011, Richards was named the Massachusetts Assistant Principal of the Year (APOY) and one of the three national finalists. In 2012, he coached a principal colleague to apply for the APOY award—which she went on to win in Massachusetts—and was also named as a national finalist.

In addition to speaking at this year’s Advocacy Conference and serving on the NASSP Bylaws Review Advisory Committee, Richards has addressed school leaders about the important role they play in the trajectory of education. Because of his commitment to NASSP and MSAA, Massachusetts school leaders are  one of the leading education policy voices on Beacon Hill in Boston and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts is one of the top performing states in the country for grassroots advocacy efforts supporting NASSP’s policy agenda.

Richards has also worked with school leaders across Massachusetts to demonstrate how to use the NASSP Action Center and is currently working with members of the state association to implement an Action Center at the state level. At MSAA board meetings, he continually reinforces the importance of being a leader in their school districts and shares how to leverage different forms of communication to amplify their voices on key legislation.

While Richards personally advocates heavily at the state and federal level, he also takes care to foster and guide safe activism and engagement among his students. Last year, he helped guide his student body’s participation in a walkout to protest gun violence—an event that stemmed from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. He encouraged the students to lead and organize the event while offering limited help when needed, and he partnered with local police to make student safety a top priority.

He also led the students in a community-wide march for peace following a racial incident targeting African-American students at his school. What could have been an angry and aggressive situation ended up being an educational opportunity with long-lasting positive outcomes.

Congratulations once again to Dan Richards for his unwavering commitment and tireless advocacy for excellent education and strong public schools across the nation.

Learn more about the NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year award today.

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