Reston, VA – The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) today named Jon Fitzgerald, Audrey Fish, and Debra Paradowski as the finalists for the 2020 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year (APOY) award. Each year, NASSP recognizes outstanding middle level and high school assistant principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students. These assistant principals are acknowledged by their peers for the exemplary contributions they have made to the profession. The 2020 finalists are:

Jon Fitzgerald, Pattonville High School, Maryland Heights, MO

Jon Fitzgerald is most proud of the career readiness initiatives and programs that Pattonville High School has built over the past seven years. The school created four-year pathways in computer science, engineering, biomedical science, nursing, fashion and interior design, education and teaching, and culinary arts, in addition to traditional core academic offerings. Among these endeavors was also the development of a nursing simulation lab to ensure that the certified nursing assistant students have the ability to train extensively prior to going out and doing their clinical work. These pathways allow students to gain a great depth of experience in their chosen areas of interest. Fitzgerald listens to teachers and students, supports their ideas, and works with them to ensure that they have agency and are able to develop upon their ideas to completion—which has a tremendously positive effect on the school community.

Audrey Fish, Oquirrh Hills Middle School, Riverton, UT

When it comes to leadership, Audrey Fish’s approach is transparent, reflective, and collaborative. These traits have helped foster a culture of safety and well-being at Oquirrh Hills Middle School. In schools, it is imperative that each student and teacher feels nurtured during the educational experience. Fish believes that if we want our teachers and students to be competitive in the future, then it is our job to help them grow as learners. One of her proudest success stories occurred in the last two years when she implemented an instructional coaching model at the school. The school is developing a three-year plan to have the coaching model fully implemented and highly functional, with visible data of its effectiveness on student learning. This has shaped a culture of trust, transparency, and vulnerability to allow other adults to give nonevaluative feedback to improve teaching and student learning.

Debra Paradowski, Arrowhead Union High School, Hartland, WI

Debra Paradowski believes a healthy, safe, and positive school culture that supports students and staff is paramount for learning and a sense of belonging. She collaborated with staff on whole-school approaches to promote and support well-being, engagement, and social-emotional development. Paradowski started a student-centered group called Students Leaving a Mark to improve the school culture. By giving students a voice in their school’s routines, they were empowered to become confident learners. Opportunities were created for students to demonstrate leadership skills and guide the school in the right direction. Students made decisions about topics they wanted to address and outlined their action steps. The school observed an increase in positive behavior, attendance, academic accomplishments, and pride.

“Principals can’t do their jobs alone, and we are proud to recognize three assistant principals—Jon, Audrey, and Debra—who have focused on building culture and leading learning, the foundational elements of the Building Ranks™ framework, by developing innovative and entrepreneurial learning structures that help ensure the well-being of the whole child,” stated NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “We are committed to supporting our assistant principals and their growth as they continue to develop supportive learning environments to ensure the success for each and every student and adult in their own communities.”

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 selects one assistant principal to represent their state. Of these, three finalists are named as contenders for the award, with one being recognized as the NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year.

The 2020 National Assistant Principal of the Year will be announced in April 2020 during National Assistant Principals Week, April 6–10. The national winner, along with all state Assistant Principals of the Year, will be formally recognized during the 2020 National Principals Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, July 7–9. For more information, visit 

Photos available upon request.



The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor SocietyNational Junior Honor SocietyNational Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.