Debra ParadowskiReston, VA—The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has named Debra Paradowski, assistant principal at Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, WI, as the 2020 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year (APOY). The 2020 APOY announcement comes during NASSP’s annual celebration of National Assistant Principals Week.

“Deb provides positive learning experiences for our students by empowering them to take action on things that matter most to them,” said Gregg Wieczorek, principal at Arrowhead Union High School. “Our students are more confident in leading events to better our school climate and stand up for others.”

Paradowski has served as an assistant principal at Arrowhead Union High School for the past 15 years and has helped to build a culture of “everyone matters.” 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. Through the creation of many different school programs, Paradowski has been able to focus on fostering an environment where staff members genuinely care about their students, have high expectations, and promote resilience.

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.

To build positive school culture from the start, Paradowski and her colleagues started WINGS, a three-day program that acclimates incoming freshman into the school. Together with Principal Wieczorek, she also sets up small group meetings with freshman throughout the year to help them understand their roles and also learn about the students’ interests and needs. During these meetings, students are invited to participate in activities and clubs to get more involved in the school community.

Through these types of programs, Paradowski has emphasized the message that students have value.  She has cultivated a foundation that provides a strong and secure learning environment where students can flourish both academically and socially.

Paradowski holds a bachelor’s degree in middle/secondary education from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and a master’s degree in education leadership from Marian University in Indianapolis. She received additional licensures from Marian University and certificates from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

“Debra Paradowski has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to giving students a voice and showing their value, and we are proud to honor her as the 2020 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year,” stated NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “She has built a school culture that revolves around strong relationships, student-centeredness, and communication, while also encouraging a positive learning environment through collaborative leadership—all of which contribute to the overall goal of ensuring student success.”

Bartoletti added, “Today more than ever, as we navigate through the unfamiliarity of this global pandemic, we recognize the importance of effective school leadership, especially assistant principals like Debra who now move seamlessly from distributing meals to monitoring online learning.”

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.

Paradowski, along with all State Assistant Principals of the Year, will be formally recognized during the 2020 National Principals Conference in National Harbor, MD, July 7–9. For more information, visit


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.