Being an assistant principal takes dedication, determination, and grit—but it also takes compassion, innovation, and collaboration. All are qualities found in a National Assistant Principal of the Year, and Meghan Redmond, assistant principal at Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok, AK, has been honored as this year’s winner.
Redmond leads learning in a truly rural environment, with all the challenges to match. “In New Stuyahok, hunting, fishing, and subsisting off the land aren’t hobbies, but are the way of life and survival due to the lack of traditional economic opportunities in the community,” she says. “Our school is off the road system and only accessible by air or boat, and even then only when the weather cooperates. So, everything we need to run our school, from toilet paper to textbooks, is flown in via single-engine aircrafts.” Such a limited environment can make it difficult for students to gain exposure to college and career choices, and Redmond is tackling that problem head on.
By securing visitors to come talk to the students about their careers as well as planning senior trips to other parts of the country, Redmond is devoted to opening up a world of options and choice for her school community. She has helped fundraise, plan, and chaperone trips anywhere from Juneau, to Hawaii, to Chicago, and even Washington, D.C. “I feel that it is a major part of my responsibilities as assistant principal to provide my students in every grade as many opportunities as possible to see what college and career options are out there for them and provide them with equal access to an amazing future of their choice,” says Redmond. “I never want students to feel like they are missing out on something because of where they are from.”
While expanding horizons for her students is important, Redmond is also careful to incorporate her community’s long-standing history and background into her instruction. Redmond’s student population is made up of primarily Yup’ik Eskimo Alaska Natives—nearly 100 percent, in fact—so she works tirelessly to build and revitalize culture throughout her school. Utilizing the local language and traditional values to inform her leadership, she helps ensure that her students receive a culturally relevant education in addition to core academics. They even make sure to start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance in both English and Yup’ik.
Redmond’s leadership is palpable not only in her students, but also her staff. She regularly combats teacher turnover by celebrating her team through the “Eagle of the Week” award program, where a staff member is recognized each week for everyday victories. “Teachers who feel appreciated for all of the hard work they do are more likely to stay year after year,” Redmond notes. And as she excels in human capital management, so do her retention rates: In the transition from 2017–18 to the 2018–19 academic year, Chief Ivan Blunka School boasted a 100 percent retention of its teachers, classified staff, and administrators. This high retention is more than an impressive statistic—it’s critical to the success of her students. “In rural Alaska, high teacher and administrator turnover has a huge, detrimental effect on student achievement and family commitment to education, as well as the way the community cooperates and partners with the school,” she explains, adding that she is committed to “facilitating a school culture where our staff feel appreciated and valued.”
The National Assistant Principal of the Year program annually recognizes outstanding middle level and high school assistant principals who have succeeded in providing high quality learning opportunities for students. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, and the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools may select one assistant principal to represent their state. From these state winners, three finalists are named with one chosen as the NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year.
All 2019 Assistant Principals of the Year will be recognized this summer at the 2019 National Principals Conference in Boston.
Congratulations once again to Meghan Redmond, the 2019 NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year! Be sure to celebrate all assistant principals throughout the week during National Assistant Principals Week, April 8–12. Need inspiration? Check out these ideas for how you can thank your assistant principal—and assistant principals across the country—for their dedication.