2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year finalists
Westmont High School
Jack Baldermann has cultivated a culture of safety and compassion that has led to skyrocketing student achievement. His school was one of 500 nationwide that were chosen in 2015 by Newsweek for “Beating the Odds.” All African American and Latino students have graduated on time, four years in a row, and the number of underrepresented AP Scholars has increased by over 700 percent. Since 2015, the school has been the most improved regular high school in the nation on the Washington Post Challenge Index (and ranked top 1 percent in the state). The staff describe feeling supported by Baldermann, who has led them collaboratively in building ambitious, student-centered programs based on the school’s vision and S.M.A.R.T. goals. On top of faculty support and student success, Baldermann also believes in mentorship, having served as lead mentor to over 40 principals in 14 states. Additionally, in his 25 years as an administrator, 21 of the educators he hired and mentored for their first administrative position have gone on to become successful principals and superintendents.
Chapin High School
As an instructional leader, Akil Ross models best practices and consistently challenges faculty members to grow professionally, as he understands the important link between professional growth and student performance. Under Ross’ leadership, Chapin High School was recognized as a South Carolina Palmetto’s Finest Award recipient in 2015. Not content with an 82 percent proficiency rate and 92 graduation rate, Ross challenged his faculty to aim for 100. That challenge sparked the analysis of trend data to identify students most at risk of dropping out, then soliciting funding for a “school after school” to extend instructional services for those students. Chapin’s graduation rate now exceeds 96 percent and proficiency rates continue to climb, including a 16-point spike in math proficiency among black students. Ross’ mantra for the school is “We are a thousand passions with one heartbeat,” and he aims to foster an environment where students can be challenged but also pursue their own interests.
Meadowcreek High School
In his six years as principal at Meadowcreek High School (MHS), Tommy Welch took one of Georgia’s largest and lowest performing, yet most diverse, urban schools and raised the graduation rate from 47 to 73 percent. One teacher described Welch as embodying Muhammad Ali’s idea that “impossible is nothing!” and this is apparent in initiatives he has implemented, including the introduction of more STEM courses, project-based learning, on-campus internships with business partners and state politicians, and transforming the school into five smaller college- and career-theme learning centers. MHS has Georgia’s first full-service bank in a school, as well as a makerspace designed in collaboration with Georgia Tech. The guiding principles that motivate his school improvement efforts are collaborate, inspire, and own—Welch uses these to empower students, staff, and the community to accomplish their goals and succeed.