A Principal Can Change Your Life

In a deeply personal story, Ashleigh Dixon, an NASSP Customer Care Center representative, writes about her difficult childhood and how the principal of Dominion High School in Sterling, VA, believed in her and inspired her when she started there in 10th grade. “In an instant,” she recalls, “I went from feeling ignored to feeling seen. My principal was Dr. John Brewer, and he had a huge impact on my life. He set the tone for the whole school, and he took every opportunity to ensure that the faculty and student body embodied the values we set together as a community … Until I came to Dominion, I never thought I could enjoy school or that I would even graduate.”

Engaging the Community and Promoting Collaboration

Collaboration and community engagement are keys to any school’s success. In a roundtable discussion, three school leaders talk about what they’ve done in their schools to spark collaboration and engage all members of the school community. These leaders include Paula Callan, the principal of Messalonskee High School in Oakland, ME, and the 2022 Maine Principal of the Year; Nicole Carter, the principal of Novi High School in Novi, MI, and the 2022 Michigan Principal of the Year; and James Garst, the principal of Andrew Lewis Middle School in Salem, VA, and the 2022 Virginia Principal of the Year.

A Multifaceted Approach to Prevent Bullying

Principal Mary Fulp spent a lot of time working with her staff at Colony Middle School in Palmer, AK, on showing kindness and respect toward students. School surveys showed those efforts were successful but that students didn’t feel the same sense of safety and respect from their peers. Bullying in particular was a problem, so Fulp and her staff addressed it by:

  • Having students write commitment statements to describe what they are doing to make their school the best school possible.
  • Requiring classes on digital citizenship to teach responsible use of social media.
  • Celebrating students who show the kind of behavior that can help prevent bullying.
  • Making sure staff also lead by example.

Celebrating the Work of Classified Staff

In his seven years as principal of Indio High School in Indio, CA, Derrick Lawson has focused on making sure the entire staff is engaged and involved in everything at the school. He has launched a number of efforts specifically designed to recognize and celebrate the work of classified staff by:

  • Enabling classified staff to elect a representative to serve on the school site council that meets with Lawson monthly and has a say in important school decisions.
  • Holding a monthly potluck lunch to celebrate classified staff with birthdays that month, which gives them the chance to get to know each other better.
  • Providing all classified staff with business cards and notepads with their names on them.
  • Including classified staff in creating a Google slide deck to share information about themselves; those slides are broadcast on the morning news.