The 2022 National Principal of the Year Finalists

2021 Georgia Principal of the Year—Keith L. Ball of Marietta High School in Marietta, GA

When Keith L. Ball was hired at Marietta High School in 2018, he was the school’s fourth principal in five years. Marietta had never met the state graduation rate nor earned above a “C” on the state report card. The school needed a clear vision and consistent leadership. Ball intentionally built meaningful ways for students to actively participate in leading the school—ensuring their voice, needs, and expectations were being met. One of the most impactful tools Ball utilized was Cognia’s eleot 2.0 Training Certification to observe and document classroom environments, ensuring student-centered, meaningful, and equitable instruction. In 2019, the hard work began to pay off with Marietta finally earning a “B” on the state report card. In 2020, it earned the highest graduation rate in the school’s 128-year history.

2021 Massachusetts Principal of the Year—Ted McCarthy of Sutton High School in Sutton, MA

Ted McCarthy has worked hard to make Sutton High School a place where students and staff love to learn and grow. One of the ways he’s done it? By encouraging students and teachers to play a larger role in shaping the school’s direction. He’s accomplished this by shifting the school structure to one where students and teachers play a larger role in shaping the direction of the school. Among the changes students have advocated for is the creation of the school’s Connections Team—a social justice group comprising 40 students and eight staff members. Every year, this team facilitates a six-hour, anti-racist/anti-bias workshop for all ninth graders—which many students cite years later as their most meaningful experience at the school. In 2019, Sutton hosted the first “Connections Conference” on social justice for students and teachers throughout Massachusetts. Due to COVID-19, the school made its most recent conference virtual, drawing over 700 participants from across New England.

2021 Missouri Principal of the Year—Beth Houf of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, MO

For principal Beth Houf, equity at Fulton Middle School begins with her leadership. In 2019, the school was not meeting student needs, the culture was toxic, and trust was low. So Houf and her team began intensive training in professional learning communities to ensure that best practices, a viable curriculum, and quality assessments and interventions were all founded on a collaborative culture. Houf saw early on that staff needed to implement an advisory period for all students focusing on empathy and empowerment. To rebuild the school’s culture and build trust between students, staff, and families, Houf and her team turned to training in restorative practices and invited local experts to train educators on trauma-informed teaching. This schoolwide commitment led to a 40% reduction in discipline referrals.

The 2022 National Principal of the Year will be announced during National Principals Month (NPM) on October 5. For the most up-to-date information on NPM events, visit

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