Alexandria, VA – The American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and New Leaders congratulate Dr. Jean-Paul Cadet, Monifa McKnight, and Dana Nerenberg on their selection as 2016-17 Principal Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education (USED).

Dr. Cadet, the Washington, D.C. Fellow, will be based full-time at USED during the 2016–17 school year. Ms. McKnight and Ms. Nerenberg, the Campus Fellows, will work with USED on a part-time basis while continuing to serve and lead schools in Maryland and Oregon, respectively. The Fellows were selected for their demonstrated effectiveness as school leaders, their unwavering commitment to supporting the success of teachers and students, and their vision for strengthening federal education policies.

“Principals are essential in creating the well-rounded educational experiences that our nation’s students deserve,” said Gail Connelly, NAESP executive director. “NAESP is pleased that the Department of Education is once again tapping into fresh-from-the-field expertise to help shape policies that will help students thrive.”

The Principal Ambassador Fellowship program was launched by USED in 2013 as a key way to incorporate principals’ perspective as federal officials develop policies aimed at fostering conditions that support school leaders and advance student achievement. AFSA, NAESP, NASSP, and New Leaders commend USED for continuing this invaluable initiative, which reflects a growing recognition of the importance of school leadership in achieving ambitious goals for our nation’s students.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal K–12 education law, introduces a new era of local control, making it more important than ever that America’s schools are led by well-prepared, well-supported principals. Happily, ESSA includes many new or improved provisions and programs that emphasize the importance of principals and other school leaders.

In particular, there is a new optional set-aside in Title II that allows states to use a portion of their federal funds to pursue activities geared specifically toward building critical infrastructure and supports for principals and school leaders.

“Since then-Secretary Duncan announced the creation of the Principal Ambassador Fellowship program at NASSP’s 2013 annual conference, principals have benefitted from a series of strong, thoughtful voices representing the realities of school leadership to high-level policy makers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP executive director. “This year’s Fellows are no exception. We look forward to working with them during this crucial year as states implement provisions of ESSA. And we’re counting on them to remind policy makers of the simple fact that an investment in leadership is an investment in learning.”

States will only be able to take advantage of this unprecedented support for principals if Congress provides robust funding for Title II, Part A, through the federal appropriations process. While federal lawmakers have made significant strides in recognizing the importance of school leaders, it now is critical that they provide adequate funding to support their success.

“AFSA could not be more pleased to welcome the 2016–17 Principal Ambassador Fellows, and we applaud the Department of Education for continuing this critical program,” said Diann Woodard, AFSA president. “In order to ensure the success of education policy, it is essential the voice of our nation’s school leaders be included at every step of the process. This is especially true this year, as states will have the unprecedented opportunity furnished by ESSA to support principals, by providing them with appropriate professional support to help them carry out their multitude of tasks successfully—ultimately benefiting their schools, teachers, and the students they serve.”

The Fellows will serve as advisors to U.S. Secretary of Education John King and other officials during the final year of President Obama’s tenure and the first year of a new Administration. They will have an opportunity to provide consistent leadership during this transition and ensure federal policymakers maintain a sharp focus on supporting states, districts, and schools to prioritize leadership as they plan for ESSA implementation.

“Principal voice will be critical as the Department of Education supports states and districts in implementing ESSA’s evidence-based, locally-tailored school improvement strategies,” said Jean Desravines, New Leaders chief executive officer. “The Fellows will provide insight into high-quality implementation of the law, including new and expanded opportunities to strengthen school leadership. In particular, I am pleased that New Leader Principal Dana Nerenberg will have the opportunity to share her expertise and help strengthen federal policies.”

About AFSA

The American Federation of School Administrators is the exclusive union for administrators, professionals and supervisors advocating for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces, and communities. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. AFSA members are active in the labor movement and proudly stand in solidarity with all trade unionists and school administrators.


Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) leads in the advocacy and support for elementary and middle school principals in the United States and internationally. NAESP supports principals as the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning through policy development, advocacy, professional development programs, and resources for effective instructional leadership. NAESP advances the profession on behalf of all principals, providing specialized support and mentoring for early career principals. Key focus areas include preK-3 education, school safety, technology and digital learning, and capacity-building educator evaluation. To learn more about NAESP, please visit NAESP administers the National Principals Resource Center and the American Student Council Association.


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high-quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.

About New Leaders

New Leaders prepares education leaders to deliver breakthrough results in America’s highest-need schools and advocates for the conditions that will enable great leaders-and their students-to thrive. In 2001, New Leaders launched its flagship Aspiring Principals program with a cohort of 14 participants. Since then, the national nonprofit has trained nearly 2,500 outstanding education leaders who are currently supporting the success of 450,000 students in more than 20 districts and 100 charter schools across the country. To learn more about New Leaders, please visit