State Principals of the Year

Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the Department of Defense Education Activity will select one middle level and one high school principal to represent their state. State winners are selected from applications submitted to the state associations.

Each state’s selection process and deadlines vary. Application information for each state may be found by contacting your state affiliate.

2019 State Principals of the Year

State Name School Name
Alabama Andrea Dennis Scarborough Model Middle School</td
Alaska Frank Hauser Robert Service High School
Arizona Dan Serrano Perry High School
Arkansas Chad Jordan Greene County Tech High School
California Mark Anderson Marshall Fundamental Secondary School
Colorado Deana Pachelli Trinidad Middle School
Connecticut Gordon Beinstein Western Middle School
Delaware Sherry Kijowski Caesar Rodney High School
District of Columbia Kimberly Martin Woodrow Wilson High School
DODEA Paul Hernandez Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
DOSOS Joelle Basnight American International School Chennai
DOSOS Alexa Schmid International School of Kenya
Florida Mark Shanoff Edgewater High School
Georgia Kerensa Wing Collins Hill High School
Hawaii Fred Murphy Mililani High School
Idaho Tim Little Marsing High School
Illinois Amy Mascal Streator Township High School
Indiana Bruce Jennings Bremen High School
Iowa Kerry Newman Kirn Middle School
Kansas Greg Rosenhagen Cheney High School
Kentucky Samuel Watkins Madison Southern High School
Louisiana Eric Davis Wossman High School
Maine Brian Walsh Hermon High School
Maryland Joey Jones Robert Frost Middle School
Massachusetts Lindsa McIntyre Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Michigan Robert Beato South Lake High School
Minnesota Andrew Merfeld St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West
Mississippi Carey Kirkland Velma Jackson High School
Missouri Krisandra Worley Saeger Middle School
Montana Joel Graves Lincoln County High School
Nebraska Ross Ricenbaw Waverly Middle School
Nevada Amy Wagner Boulder City High School
New Hampshire Tracy Collyer Salem High School
New Jersey Paul Mucciarone Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health & Science
New Mexico Tim Kienitz Farmington High School
New York Timothy Jenny James A. Green High School
North Carolina Tabari Wallace West Craven High School
North Dakota Aaron Schramm Park River Area High School
Ohio Mark Smithberger Strongsville High School
Oklahoma Scott Beck Norman High School
Oregon Lee Loving Ridgeview High School
Pennsylvania Anthony Mooney Quaker Valley Middle School
Rhode Island Kevin McNamara Lincoln High School
South Carolina Michael Lofton Spring Hill High School
South Dakota Joe Childs Mitchell High School
Tennessee Chad Smith Powell High School
Texas Tim Lambert Texas Middle School
Utah Luke Rasmussen Ogden High School
Vermont Philip Grant Peoples Academy
Virginia Jesse Boyd King George High School
Washington Guy Kovacs Kalles Junior High School
West Virginia Holly Kleppner Musselman High School
Wisconsin Ty Breitlow Chilton High School
Wyoming Breez Daniels Thermopolis Middle School/Hot Springs County High School

2019 Alabama Principal of the Year

Andrea Dennis

Andrea Dennis

Scarborough Model Middle School
Mobile, AL

Grades: 6–8
Students: 564
Region: Urban
@AndreaLDennis

• Building culture
• Leading professional learning

The primary responsibility of the principal is to serve as the instructional leader (lead teacher) of the school. There are many facets to “leading learning.” I work to establish an environment of physical and psychological safety in which teachers are emboldened to take instructional risks, and students are empowered as inquirers, independent thinkers, and creators. I lead faculty in the disaggregation and evaluation of data and make decisions that are student-driven and that personalize learning. I model the use of technology as a tool to differentiate instruction and create individual learning paths. The choice to be the instructional leader had positive implications for my students at Scarborough Model Middle School, where our team removed the detrimental “failing school” label, increased the state report card score by 21 points, secured a $450,000 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, and changed the culture to one in which every student has a pathway to success.


2019 Alaska Principal of the Year

Frank Hauser

Frank Hauser

Robert Service High School
Anchorge, AK

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,533
Region: Urban
@MrFrankHauser

• Community-building
• Communication

I am not sure principals in their roles have “personal success stories”; the Robert Service High School (RSHS) Partners Club, like all school-based successes, involves an entire community. The Partners Club is the most popular club at RSHS and brings students of all abilities together to support educational goals, engage in life-skills activities, and build a culture of inclusion. From school-sponsored activities like Superhero Hockey Night to community events like Special Olympics Alaska’s Polar Plunge fundraiser, choosing to include with the Partners Club is fun. This year, RSHS was one of 30 schools in the nation—and the first in Alaska—recognized by Special Olympics and ESPN as a National Unified Champion School. In honor of RSHS’s national banner recognition, the mayor declared October 30 as Unified Champion Schools Day and “urged all residents to take an active role in creating positive experiences for youths of all abilities.” A school success becomes a community success.


2019 Arizona Principal of the Year

Dan Serrano

Dan Serrano

Perry High School
Gilbert, AZ

Grades: 9–12
Students: 3,582
Region: Suburban
@DanSerrano2

• Starting a new school
• Creating relationships with stakeholders

One of my goals when I opened up Perry High School (PHS) in 2007 was to make sure that all special needs students were accepted and integrated in all aspects of the school. Students, parents, and teachers will tell you that the special needs students are a part of the school community. These students are mainstreamed into all curriculums, activities, and athletics. Two students with Down syndrome have been named the Homecoming King within the last five years. PHS was one of six high schools to join the state’s first Unified Sports team competitions, and its self-contained program is considered one of the state’s best.


2019 Arkansas Principal of the Year

Chad Jordan

Chad Jordan

Greene County Tech High School
Paragould, AR

Grades: 10–12
Students: 825
Region: Rural
@ChadJordan1974

• Putting students first
• Encouraging my faculty to think outside the box

During my tenure at Greene County Tech High School, I have led our faculty through training to be more intentional in building meaningful relationships with all students. My expectation for our administrators and teachers is to meet every student with a smile and a greeting each day as students enter the building or classroom. Administrators model this daily with our teachers and students by greeting them most mornings as they arrive. Our teachers build social contracts in collaboration with the students and begin each day with a few positive things going on in the students’ lives. I model this in our faculty meetings by starting each meeting with teachers sharing positives that are going on throughout our building. The goal is to reach all students. We want to make a difference for every student by having a trusting, positive adult they can depend on.


2019 California Principal of the Year

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Marshall Fundamental Secondary School
Pasadena, CA

Grades: 6–12
Students: 1,992
Region: Urban
@MarshallEagles1

• Building community partnerships
• Managing change

At Marshall Fundamental Secondary School, we have developed a schoolwide innovation project that promotes critical thinking across all content areas and connects the students to businesses and legislators. This project has received many accolades for the participation of the entire school, the depth of thinking, and the community partnerships. The journey of the innovation project has been forged from our missteps and our ability to reflect and improve. It began with an idea from a parent, and a couple teachers led the work and shouldered the burden. Today, a team of teachers and community members lead the charge and develop annual themes resulting in powerful papers and presentations from all students. The innovation project is a testament to the dedication and the perseverance of a team willing to use mistakes to recalibrate and enhance the work, and to a long-term focus on using community partners to engage all students with rigorous expectations.


2019 Colorado Principal of the Year

Deana Pachelli

Deana Pachelli

Trinidad Middle School
Trinidad, CO

Grades: 6–8
Students: 229
Region: Rural

• Using data to drive instruction
• Empowering teachers and students to reach their full potential and take on leadership opportunities

My best success story is when Trinidad Middle School was able to move from priority improvement to performance in one year on the school performance framework for Colorado. During this process, we worked together as a cohesive staff to build a set of non-negotiables centered on literacy, which would be integrated across the disciplines. We implemented a common lesson plan template, reading every day even on assembly days and shortened days; 120 minutes for reading and writing; data dialogue meetings to determine individual needs of students; professional learning community meetings for planning of lessons and developing effective curriculum; common plan time; fluid intervention in reading and math; and instructional coaches in both reading and math. In addition, we created a culture of “I can, I want to, and I will” for the students. It truly does take a village.


2019 Connecticut Principal of the Year

Gordon Beinstein

Gordon Beinstein

Western Middle School
Greenwich, CT

Grades: 6–8
Students: 640
Region: Suburban
@wmsprincip

• School transitions
• Communication

I am most proud of our ability to reshape the perceptions about our school. As the only Title I middle school in an affluent community, we had historically been viewed as “less than” the other schools in our town. As a result of the expertise and dedication of the best staff I have ever worked with, we have flipped this narrative. Our scores are up for all children. Western Middle School (WMS) ranked 3rd out of 270 middle schools in the state in terms of the Overall Accountability Index. We consistently outscore much less diverse schools, leapfrogging 81 schools in the past five years. Parent surveys speak to a 95 percent satisfaction rate with their child’s experience at our school. WMS has become a viable option for parents who would have never previously considered sending their children to our magnet school. We always knew we had something special to offer, and now others do as well.


2019 Delaware Principal of the Year

Sherry Kijowski

Sherry Kijowski

Caesar Rodney High School
Camden, DE

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,006
Region: Suburban
@PrincipalCRHS

• Developing school culture
• Developing community partnerships

I think one of the best parts of being a principal is when a fleeting comment becomes an idea, and that idea then becomes an integral part of your school’s DNA. In one instance, the indoor concession stand was converted into a coffee shop for students and staff. The Brew & Gold Café is now in daily partnership between our culinary program and the John S. Charlton students at Caesar Rodney High School (CRHS) (students that have intellectual disabilities). A conversation about financial literacy led to a partnership with Del-One Federal Union. Del-One in Rider Country is now open daily during lunch for staff and student use. And, at the suggestion of a coach, CRHS served as a pilot school for Unified Athletics, an inclusive sports program that unites Special Olympics athletes and partners as teammates for training and competition during all three seasons of play.


2019 District of Columbia Principal of the Year

Kimberly J. Martin

Kimberly J. Martin

Woodrow Wilson High School
Washington, D.C.

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,800
Region: Urban
@wilsonhsdcps

• Culturally responsive instruction
• Adaptive leadership

Woodrow Wilson High School (WWHS) embarked on a purpose-driven plan to change the climate of the school related to racism and academic exclusion. Success was measured by a 10 percent improvement in-seat attendance; a 22 percent decrease in suspension rates for African American students; and an overall increase in average AP scores (5 percent), AP enrollment for African American students (26 percent), and students enrolling in one or more honors or AP classes. As part of the Climate Committee responsibilities, we realized it was paramount to address the achievement gap, but most importantly to address the sense of belonging and safety of students of color, many of whom travel from out-of-boundary to attend WWHS. Inclusion, honest discussions of race and racism, and disrupting the “opportunity myth” have all served as guiding values for our school.


2019 DoDEA Principal of the Year

Paul Hernandez

Paul Hernandez

Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School
Maxwell AFB, AL

Grades: 6–8
Students: 68
Region: Suburban

• Professional learning communities
• Instructional walk-throughs

The highest impact success at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School has been the implementation of professional learning communities (PLCs). Four years ago, there was no organized collaboration in the school. Now, teams meet daily to discuss the four essential questions of PLCs. The school has pushed through the challenging but necessary shifts to change the culture of the school, engrain a focus on learning, and begin to meaningfully use data. Through trial and error, there are clear and functional processes in place to help teams experience success. While implementing PLCs is worthy of celebration, the real success is the impact PLCs have had on the school. The climate has completely changed. The quality of instruction continues to improve; student achievement has increased. Decisions are data-driven. The school is simply better. Most importantly, however, the school has and will continue to help each individual student experience success.


2019 DoSOS Principal of the Year

Joelle Basnight

Joelle Basnight

American International School of Chennai
Taramani Chennai, India

Grades: 9–12
Students: 205
Region: Urban

• Building community
• Implementing large-scale change

We all know that top-down leadership can decrease buy-in and sour relationships within a community; and yet, how does a leader effectively and efficiently share leadership? At the American International School Chennai, we use two advisory forums—one for the students and one for the faculty—to tackle policy, procedural, and social issues. The forums give an authentic voice to students and teachers while building understanding and empathy across and within the two groups. As a result, issues are addressed quickly, and decisions are better informed. Students and teachers see their participation in these forums as a vital part of shaping their community.


2019 DoSOS Principal of the Year

Alexa P. Schmid

Alexa P. Schmid

International School of Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

Grades: 6–8
Students: 260
Region: Rural
@TeachSchmid

• Thoughtful and process-driven facilitator, inclusive of stakeholder voices
• Curriculum knowledge

With over 70 nationalities, we have an exceptionally diverse school community at the International School of Kenya. Over the last few years, we have been examining the topic of diversity and looking for opportunities to expand our cultural proficiency, provide culturally relevant educational experiences, and support our diverse students. To better support our middle school students, this year we developed a Student Climate Committee. This group looked for opportunities to increase acceptance and a sense of belonging in our community. In January, the students in this committee planned and led workshops for the entire school around identity. We called it Proud to Be Me Day, and these workshops were teacher-supported but student-led, focusing on race, gender, neurodiversity, and LGBTQ. This work has further enhanced our school culture with the belief that our diversity makes us stronger and makes a safe space for all of our students.


2019 Florida Principal of the Year

Mark Shanoff

Mark Shanoff

Edgewater High School
Orlando, FL

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,957
Region: Urban
@DrMarkShanoff

• Organizational management systems
• Building leadership pipelines

Prior to 2017, graduation was an event at Edgewater High School (EHS), but not an expectation of performance. Expectations needed to change—and fast. Out of 19 traditional high schools in the district, EHS ranked 18 in graduation rate after the 2015–16 school year. A new set of accountability measures needed to be in place to ensure graduation opportunities for all students. We had to conduct parent meetings with every student, and their parents, who was not on track for graduation to develop a plan for credit recovery, SAT, and/or minimum GPA performance. With parents re-engaged and students with a roadmap to graduation, the system worked. In back-to-back years, we saw a 6 percent increase in graduation rate. By graduation in 2018, EHS had the greatest increase of all 19 schools and vaulted to 7th out of all 19 high schools. Graduation is no longer optional; it is an expectation.


2019 Georgia Principal of the Year

Kerensa Shoemake Wing

Kerensa Shoemake Wing

Collins Hill High School
Suwanee, GA

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,974
Region: Urban
@kwing2

• Collaborative leadership
• Developing teacher leadership

Global mindedness is a focus for Collins Hill High School with its richly diverse student body and staff who cultivates ways for students to share their cultures with others. Teachers incorporate students’ backgrounds to enrich the curriculum through discussions of different global perspectives. Our STEM program currently has virtual exchanges with schools in Liberia through a USAid connection. Adding PenPal Schools as a curriculum tool provides a global stage for students to interact on academic topics and share projects. In our yearly No Place for Hate campaign, students take pledges to respect each other and perform Intentional Acts of Kindness. In response to racially biased graffiti on our campus, student leaders developed a Culture Night that has become a tremendous event with over 800 attendees and 30-plus cultures represented for students to explore. These efforts created a welcoming culture that respects each student’s right to learn in a positive, inclusive environment.


2019 Hawaii Principal of the Year

Fred Murphy

Fred Murphy

Mililani High School
Mililani, HI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,603
Region: Suburban

  • Increasing percentage of students in AP courses
  • Supporting students and staff with a strong social-emotional learning program

Hawaii is the world’s most isolated land mass, importing 80 percent of its food. The Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) is the largest purchaser of food in the state and the ninth largest school district in the United States. The ‘Aina Pono (Farm to School) Initiative provided a way for me to include local meats and produce in school meals. I worked with the lieutenant governor’s office and HIDOE food services to empower my cafeteria manager to purchase food directly from local farmers and design menus for Mililani High School (MHS) students and its two satellite elementary cafeteria sites. This project has inspired HIDOE to change menus for the 190,000 students across the state and increase demand for local food production. Students have a fresher/tastier dining experience, meal count has increased, and other schools are learning from MHS’s journey. The initiative has increased local food production in our state.


2019 Idaho Principal of the Year

Tim Little

Marsing High School
Marsing, ID

Grades: 9–12
Students: 265
Region: Rural

• Organizational skills
• Problem-solving

With complete buy-in from staff, we have created a culture of learning within English Language Arts and math classrooms over the last three years that have resulted in some of the top standardized test scores within our state. Focused on formative assessments that constantly occur within the classroom during instruction, we check for understanding and willingness in all students before moving on, which has led to state wide recognition for the results we have achieved. Students have also bought in as well; attendance rates during state assessments are over 98 percent, and individual results are celebrated by looking at growth as well as proficiency rates.


2019 Illinois Principal of the Year

Amy Jo Mascal

Amy Jo Mascal

Streator Township High School
Streator, IL

Grades: 9–12
Students: 883
Region: Rural
@ajmascalSHS

• Supporting students of poverty
• Supporting the trades in school

Building culture has been a primary personal focus of mine over the last five years, specifically. We began with a staff focus to create a strong foundation through trainings and book studies to build significant relationships with our students. To start, we needed to show students that we cared. Next, we needed to be able to allow ourselves to have fun with them. Finally, we needed to continue to enhance both of those objectives. If we first focus on basic needs such as ensuring our students are fed and wanted, incredible learning can take place because barriers have been torn down.


2019 Indiana Principal of the Year

Bruce Jennings

Bruce Jennings

Bremen High School
Bremen, IN

Grades: 9–12
Students: 509
Region: Rural

• Loyalty and integrity in public education
• Fostering the history of the school and its alumni

During my 40 years at Bremen High School (BHS), especially in my role as the principal, I have focused on creating a culture of giving back to the community and modeling a “pay it forward” attitude. For example, while serving as the president of the county community foundation, I initiated a countywide youth philanthropy organization called BEAM (Bettering Every Aspect of Marshall County). Students representing every high school in the county continue to govern BEAM’s service activities and the awarding of grants to youth organizations. In addition, BHS has established a strong community service tradition within its many programs while also maintaining a long-lasting partnership with the Indiana Special Olympics, Riley Children’s Hospital, and The American Red Cross. Also, by modeling servant-leadership in my community through active membership in civic organizations, students have learned to share their time, talent, and treasures for the betterment of others who may be less fortunate.


2019 Iowa Principal of the Year

Kerry Newman

Kerry Newman

Kirn Middle School
Council Bluffs, IA

Grades: 6–8
Students: 1,061
Region: Urban
@kerrynewman28

• Creating a healthy culture
• Empowering teachers to lead

My staff and I are dedicated to cultivating a culture of kindness, respect, and learning. Using Kirn Kindness as a vehicle, students began to feel connected, safe, and cared for. When I arrived at Kirn Middle School (KMS), less than half of the 1,000 students reported they had an adult who they felt they could go to if they had a problem or a concern. Now, 99 percent of the students say they have that caring adult. Back then, only 37 percent of the students at KMS said they would help another student who was being bullied or treated badly. Now, 94 percent of the students say they will stand up for their classmates. As the culture improved, academic achievement improved as well.


2019 Kansas Principal of the Year

Greg Rosenhagen

Greg Rosenhagen

Cheney High School
Cheney, KS

Grades: 9–12
Students: 230
Region: Rural

• Leading a team effort
• Surviving change by keeping the student at the center

I introduced a new 5×5 block schedule at Cheney High School (CHS) three years ago. After more than a year of planning and educating on the change, the schedule was put into place resulting in an additional 20-plus course electives for students. Next years’ graduating seniors will now graduate with 36 credit hours, eight more than the graduates from four years’ prior. This change offers more opportunities for students and allows for business internship opportunities for seniors. This has resulted in nearly half of the senior class being involved in either a semester or yearlong internship. Graduates at CHS now have access to so much more than they once did. For the coming year, we will have over 100 online classes scheduled for a student population of 230 students.


2019 Kentucky Principal of the Year

Brandon Watkins

Samuel Brandon Watkins

Madison Southern High School
Berea, KY

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,207
Region: Rural
@hs_southern

• Building culture
• Promoting relationships with student and teachers

Positive culture at Madison Southern High School is at an all-time high. I would attribute this success to a small but hugely impactful initiative we added to our professional learning community (PLC) meetings this past school year. We set a goal to build our community relationships with stakeholders and increase positive communication. The method we used became known as “positive postcards.” School postcards were made and given to every teacher. At the beginning of every PLC meeting, every teacher would send out two positive postcards they had written. Most of the time these were to students and parents, but sometimes teachers would send one to someone else in the community who had done something to help our kids or school. The impact was truly amazing! Our meetings were always very positive and the letters, notes, and calls from parents praising and thanking our teachers was extremely rewarding and motivating.


2019 Louisiana Principal of the Year

Eric V. Davis

Eric V. Davis

Wossman High School
Monroe, LA

Grades: 9–12
Students: 579
Region: Urban
@2019LAPOY

• School culture
• Building relationships with stakeholders

Building school culture is essential for a school to excel. In my first year, I empowered teachers to take control of student learning in the classroom. I allowed them to become invested stakeholders in the things that took place not only in the classroom, but also in the school as a whole. They were given the autonomy to be creative in how they taught within the confines of the curriculum. The most important piece is that teachers and students were celebrated for every achievement, no matter how big or small. Changing our culture grew our school performance score by 17.3 points in a year. We went from a D-rated school to a B-rated school and have maintained this rating for 2017–18 by becoming the top school in the state for growth in English Language Arts.


2019 Maine Principal of the Year

Brian M. Walsh

Hermon High School
Hermon, ME

Grades: 9–12
Students: 502
Region: Rural

• Mission and expectations
• Proficiency based education

The mission of Hermon High School (HHS) is to prepare students for personal success in college, career, and community. In 2012, in support of our mission, we developed a multiple-pathway program that combines college courses with career exploration and technical education. The Bridge Academy is an integrated skill-based experience that ties academics to real-world careers through a combination of career and technical coursework and access to college. The program was a joint effort between HHS, United Technologies Center, and the University of Maine System and was made available to all students. Bridge Academy students may earn between 24 and 60 college credits, with some students completing their associate degrees. The Maine Department of Education and the Maine State Legislature were so impressed by our grassroots program that they offered their financial support and duplicated our model for the entire state.


2019 Maryland Principal of the Year

Joey N. Jones

Joey N. Jones

Robert Frost Middle School
Rockville, MD

Grades: 6–8
Students: 1,085
Region: Suburban

• Developing and training principals and school leaders
• Facilitating a positive and dynamic school culture

“Everything we do sends a message. Our message is excellence.” Excellence begins with expectations. Each year, I expect PIE—not apple pie or cherry pie—but Professionalism, Integrity, and Excellence. So, what does PIE look like? In response to the government shutdown, we hosted a Government Workers Appreciation Dinner, serving nearly 100 adults, children, and volunteers. Our exciting 1.5-mile Turkey Trot run supports families in need with funding and canned food items. Our Frost Byte News begins the day with “a daily dose of excellence” and ends with “make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.” Also, Turn-Table Thursday and Freeze-Pop Friday promote valuable opportunities for relationship-building.


2019 Massachusetts Principal of the Year

Lindsa McIntyre

Lindsa McIntyre

Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Dorchester, MA

Grades: 9–12
Students: 500
Region: Urban

• Improving achievement through advancing equity
• Turnaround strategies

Through the turnaround years, Jeremiah E. Burke High School (JEBHS) engaged in a rigorous and inclusive redesign process in collaboration with local stakeholders. I led this group and ensured that the planning process was coherent, purposeful, and aligned with the school’s turnaround goals. We were able to make significant progress in meeting the needs of the at-risk student body through passionate interaction with the school community and targeted interventions to drive change in school culture, educator development, academic structures, and support for students. Crucial to the success of these initiatives was collaboration with teachers, families, and community partners. Overall, our commitment to social justice, equity, and access to quality education for all has resulted in significant gains for students, making JEBHS the first high school in the commonwealth to exit turnaround status and win the School-on-the-Move prize.


2019 Michigan Principal of the Year

Robert Beato

Robert Beato

South Lake High School
St. Clair Shores, MI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 518
Region: Urban
@mrRbeato

• Trustworthy
• Accepts and seeks feedback

In my first year as principal, I wanted to build a family culture in the building and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system. That year, I created programs like Hero in the Hallway, which awards superhero T-shirts to students that showed excellent character in the hallway and the classroom. We also have Shoutout Fridays, where students and teachers say something positive about a fellow classmate or a teacher.
Additionally that year, I made a promise to the junior class that if they could beat the previous years’ SAT scores, I would shave my head—and they won the bet.


2019 Minnesota Principal of the Year

Andrew Merfeld

Andrew Merfeld

St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West
Albertville, MN

Grades: 5–8
Students: 1,118
Region: Suburban
@stmamw

• Building school culture
• Professional learning communities

Building culture in a school is the single most important goal of a successful school leader. The culture of a school is always evolving and requires relentless attention. I believe that a principal cannot change the culture of a school alone. Therefore, our greatest success is the ability to build up and support our teacher leaders to maximize the scope of attention put toward a positive school culture. Our school has several leadership teams devoted to creating an environment of inclusion, success, or great experience for all students. The school experience stretches far beyond the classroom, and I believe supporting and fostering adult leaders in any area that impacts the student experience at our school is a leader’s greatest strength. Whether it be support, time, money, or promotion, the principal plays a vital role in the overall success of supporting and building a great school culture.


2019 Mississippi Principal of the Year

Carey Kirkland

Carey Kirkland

Velma Jackson High School
Camden, MS

Grades: 9–12
Students: 302
Region: Rural
@coachkirk04

• Building relationships
• Communication with staff and students

My success as a school leader was getting the students to change the culture of the school. The students are the most important part of any school’s success. We were able to do this by allowing the students to take ownership of their learning by having monthly grade level meetings, giving the students an opportunity to express their educational needs and concerns. By having these conversations and dialogue with our students, it helped us to build better relationships, and it created a healthy competition among our students about who would score the highest on certain tests—which, in my opinion, created a culture of learning success in our school.


2019 Missouri Principal of the Year

Kandy Worley

Saeger Middle School
Cottleville, MO

Grades: 6–8
Students: 735
Region: Suburban
@DrKWorley

• Teacher collaboration time
• Comprehensive intervention programs

Building a collaborative school culture that focuses on student learning has been my ultimate success as a public school administrator. Through my targeted efforts, the professional learning community (PLC) time became sacred and protected weekly teacher collaboration time with a primary focus on student learning. This collaboration time has created a culture of learning where teachers identified and focused on those high leverage priority standards that would give their students the most gains on the Missouri State Assessment. Due to my instructional leadership and the PLC process, we gave quarterly benchmark assessments and collaborated on growth through time. Through targeted efforts in the years that I have been principal, we have increased our overall Math MAP scores from 336.4 in 2015 to 364 in 2018—a 28 percent gain—and our English Language Arts MAP scores from 366 in 2015 to 394.2 in 2018, also a 28 percent gain.


2019 Montana Principal of the Year

Joel GravesJoel Thomas Graves

Lincoln County High School
Eureka, MT

Grades: 9–12
Students: 262
Region: Rural
@joelgraves7

• Relationship-building
• Community relations

My best success has come from building relationships with students. When a solid relationship exists, you can ask more of your students. This past year, I was able to watch one of my most challenging students graduate high school. Nash was sure to be a dropout. But by establishing a solid relationship, which included having to take him home a few times, I was able to talk Nash into going to and completing the Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MTYC). I served as Nash’s mentor while enrolled at MTYC. Upon completion, Nash was able to come home and finish high school. This was a major accomplishment for Nash and all staff who ever worked with him along the way. Nash has been accepted to Flathead Valley Community College where he is enrolled this upcoming fall.


2019 Nebraska Principal of the Year

Ross Ricenbaw

Ross Ricenbaw

Waverly Middle School
Waverly, NE

Grades: 6–8
Students: 484
Region: Suburban
@WavMSPrincipal

• Technology to increase productivity and communication
• Building positive school culture

The staff and students at Waverly Middle School (WMS) have tremendous pride in everything they do. The culture at WMS is positive, student-centered, and innovative. In working with one of our language arts teachers, we created a broadcast journalism class to have students share our successes with the world. We call it #OurWMS. Using the classroom as a vehicle, students capture images and create original content to post on our social media sites. Our teacher reviews content and schedules posts through a secure, web-based program to deliver positive updates to stakeholders. Not only does this provide an avenue for students to practice digital citizenship skills as well as enhance our school brand, but also it promotes shared ownership in the positive school culture at WMS. At the 2017 Nebraska State Principal Conference, two students, the teacher, and I hosted a session to share our success with this program and further celebrate #OurWMS.


2019 Nevada Principal of the Year

Amy Wagner

Amy Wagner

Boulder City High School
Boulder City, NV

Grades: 9–12
Students: 600
Region: Rural
@amycwagner

• Building relationships
• Social media

Within days of being appointed principal at Boulder City High School (BCHS), the school was designated to be replaced as it was built in 1950. Throughout the rebuilding process of BCHS, we collaborated with our community and staff, honoring our past in the design process so we would not lose any of the history and traditions of our school. To combat decreased enrollment numbers and negative press about the rebuilding of the high school, we launched an intensive campaign within the community to celebrate and highlight all of the positives at BCHS. As principal, I made it my mission to build relationships with all of our community, demonstrating that at BCHS we embrace tradition, family, community, excellence, and scholarship while inspiring and preparing our students for tomorrow. A dynamic culture was built where our traditions and history maintained a strong sense of pride in our students, their families, and our community.


2019 New Hampshire Principal of the Year

Tracy Collyer

Tracy Collyer

Salem High School
Salem, NH

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,161
Region: Suburban

• Respect and empathy
• Thoughtful and purposeful decision making

Our successes in helping to build culture and improve learning at Salem High School include facilitating a team of teachers, administrators, and students through a review of our current schedule—ultimately recommending a new master schedule—and leading staff and students through a 3.5-year, $75 million building renovation project. Our new A/B schedule eliminates gaps in learning, fulfills more course requests, and provides opportunities during the school day for students to receive academic support. The school board also endorsed our recommendation for an advisory for the purpose of building relationships to be implemented in the future. It was challenging to lead my staff of 200 and 1,160 students through the largest municipal construction project in the state of New Hampshire, but we all worked together, persevered, and kept our eyes on the prize. Our beautiful new facility is a learning environment where students discover, create, collaborate, and grow.


2019 New Jersey Principal of the Year

Paul Mucciarone

Paul Mucciarone

Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health & Science
Neptune, NJ

Grades: 9–12
Students: 297
Region: Suburban

• Process-oriented
• Leadership and management

Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health and Science is a high-performing high school with an experienced, capable, and dedicated staff. However, staff cohesion issues impeded the school’s ability to highlight the excellence of the program of instruction. Working with the faculty, we developed professional learning communities based on the action research model to help improve staff cohesion by promoting healthier patterns of communication, better participation habits, greater identification by each member of the faculty with the entire faculty rather than subsets, clearly identifying goals tied to the school mission, and modeling consistency in message and actions. We used this process to help shape the way that staff members communicate and collaborate. These initiatives have benefitted student learning with increased interdisciplinary cooperation. They have led directly to the successful completion of an overdue Middle States accreditation in 2016 and to the school’s recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2018.


2019 New Mexico Principal of the Year

Timothy D. Kienitz

Timothy D. Kienitz

Farmington High School
Farmington, NM

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,357
Region: Rural
@timkienitz

• Improving student learning using a team approach and strong model of instruction
• Developing a strong student support network using community services

“Farmington, NM, is the worst place in America to raise a child,” stated USA Today in August of 2018. Although no one in town believed it, teachers and staff at Farmington High School (FHS) felt punched in the gut. While crime rates from surrounding areas impacted the study, the part we owned was the low graduation rate. Our response was simple: Improve our instruction while also providing the strongest safety net possible for struggling students. Faculty collaborated to focus on high-yield strategies we now call the FHS Model of Instruction. We implemented an Early Warning System that included a draft for each student who was struggling as well as a tutorial and credit recovery team of teachers, and it leveraged community members to mentor seniors who were at risk of not graduating on time. FHS saw a record number of graduates the past two years, and our graduation rate improved by 15.7 percent.


2019 New York Principal of the Year

Timothy Jenny

Timothy Jenny

James A. Green High School
Dolgeville, NY

Grades: 9–12
Students: 271
Region: Rural

  • Building relationships
  • Communication

When entering our high school, the first thing students, staff, visitors, and family members see is a giant mural that depicts an airplane skywriting “Soar to Success” while flying over the Adirondack Mountains. As a teacher who also flies airplanes, that was the same message I passed to my students when I taught high school mathematics. I would write it on everything; their guided notes, their homework, their awards and their quizzes and tests. When I became a principal, I continued to passionately deliver that message and decided to ask one of our extremely talented art teachers to paint the large mural in our main lobby to motivate us all to “Soar to Success.”


2019 North Carolina Principal of the Year

Tabari A. Wallace

Tabari A. Wallace

West Craven High School
Vanceboro, NC

Grades: 9–12
Students: 972
Region: Rural
@TabariWallace

• Transforming a low-performing school to high-performing school
• Empowering and developing staff and student leaders

After Hurricane Florence hit us in September 2018, it damaged most of the schools in the district. Our sister elementary school was severely damaged. My staff and students moved to one side of the building to make room for 500 elementary students. My students welcomed their younger peers with a pep rally to ease their fears of high school. After sharing everything from lunch, academic resources, teachers, and supplies, a bond was forged between our schools that will go on long into the future. J.W. Smith Elementary School even had their homecoming court right alongside of ours. When their school was repaired, the elementary students didn’t want to leave our school and returned the favor and gave my students an impromptu pep rally on their last day. The governor was so moved by our story he paid us a visit to highlight our success in overcoming the storm.


2019 North Dakota Principal of the Year

Aaron Schramm

Aaron Schramm

Park River Area High School
Park River, ND

Grades: 7–12
Students: 173
Region: Rural
@SchrammAaron

• Small-school alternative education options
• Trying new things and taking risks

Park River Area School is a small rural school that focuses on a positive student-centered culture while preparing our students beyond high school. Being a small school can create obstacles for providing the same opportunities that students have in larger schools. However, one of the things I am most proud of with regards to our school is our implementation of an alternative education program for students that have struggled to succeed in the traditional school setting. This has had its greatest impact on our free and reduced-priced lunch population. Without this program, I believe our graduation rates for this population would be significantly lower than it currently is. This program has given a portion of our student body the motivation to get back on track towards graduation and, in some cases, the incentive to stay in school. It has been a significant part of creating our positive student-centered culture.


2019 Ohio Principal of the Year

Mark Smithberger

Mark Smithberger

Strongsville High School
Strongsville, OH

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,958
Region: Suburban
@m_smithberger

• Relationship-building
• Community engagement

Our best success story is working to create an environment where every student feels like part of our school. As a large high school, people loved calling us “the big house.” This was both highly impersonal and a prison reference—so I was not a fan. Our success was changing the perception of a large high school to a high school where everyone has a place. To do this we did the following things: added numerous courses throughout the curriculum, created additional community partnerships, engaged our parents in the school, added additional clubs and sports to our programming, started a mentoring program, and added assemblies and pep rallies back into our year. All of this created a shared sense of community. This has manifested itself in students being more engaged with our school, and we have seen test scores and graduation rates increase.


2019 Oklahoma Principal of the Year

Scott Beck

Norman High School
Norman, OK

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,062
Region: Suburban
@scottabeck

• Communicating with stakeholders
• Principal professional development

Norman High School was the first partner school of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at The University of Oklahoma. In 2018, we embarked on a groundbreaking endeavor: the development of a Virtue Resource Library (VRL) to serve students, parents, educators, and community members. A $100,000 project, the VRL is a collection of thousands of physical and virtual resources addressing relevant topics including: mindfulness in the classroom, virtue cultivation, self-care, civility, mental health, well-being, and more. Resources from the library are utilized in professional development and are embedded in instructional experiences. Furthermore, we offered a “tiny house class” this year where students engage in deep problem-solving to conceptualize, plan, and construct a real tiny house. Going green, students explored renewable energy and engineered the house from the ground up. The house will be donated to a local nonprofit that provides housing to homeless high school students.


2019 Oregon Principal of the Year

Lee W. Loving

Lee W. Loving

Ridgeview High School
Redmond, OR

Grades: 9–12
Students: 885
Region: Rural
@lee_w_loving

• Relationship-based education
• Professional conversations

When I came to the Redmond school district as the planning principal for the new high school, the culture was chaotic. The original high school had seen a steady turnover of administration, and the original principal resigned two weeks before the new school year began. I was asked to serve as the interim principal of Redmond High School and also still serve as the planning principal of the new school that year. During that very busy time period, I decided that we were opening two new high schools—not just one—and worked to raise the excitement for each school opening. I made it my focus to have the whole staff feel and be supported, valued, and loved. I visited every classroom every week, and I made sure I was visible in the hallways instead of only my office. I made it a point to share positive things, and amazing changes happened.


2019 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year

Anthony Mooney

Quaker Valley Middle School
Sewickley, PA

Grades: 6–8
Students: 453
Region: Suburban
@QuakerValleyMS

• Providing evaluative feedback to teachers and paraprofessionals
• Fostering a positive school culture and building consensus

Leading our CEO in the Classroom initiative enabled me to reinforce a school culture that promotes relationships and opportunities for all learners. This initiative was piloted at Quaker Valley Middle School in December 2018. I then led a regional CEO in the Classroom event in March 2019. Seven school districts and the CEOs of 30 companies from across western Pennsylvania participated in the event. The CEOs experienced a day in the life of students and got to see the successes and struggles of public schools firsthand. After the regional event took place, CEOs and school leaders came together once again to celebrate the successes, discuss the struggles, and collaborate on opportunities for students, teachers and school districts. I am very pleased to announce that the CEO in the Classroom initiative is being supported for a second year by the Grable Foundation and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.


2019 Rhode Island Principal of the Year

Kevin J. McNamara

Kevin J. McNamara

Lincoln High School
Lincoln, RI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 904
Region: Suburban
@KevinJ_McNamara

• Building school climate
• Instructional leadership

Last summer, with all the challenges ahead of Lincoln High School including a $60 million renovation and upcoming decennial accreditation, I thought about the tone we would need to set to be successful. To accomplish our goals, we would have to work together and have a positive, can-do attitude. Positive Sign Thursday helped us reinforce our core values and build our school’s climate and culture. I began the program on the first day of school by taking a picture with every ninth-grade advisory with the message “You Belong #Unity” to welcome them to the Lincoln High School family. Each succeeding Thursday brought a new message designed for the time in in the school year. At the end of each period, I would stop and read the message to the students. This soon became a tradition greeted with cheers!


2019 South Carolina Principal of the Year

Michael Lofton

Michael Lofton

Spring Hill High School
Chapin, SC

Grades: 9-12
Students: 1,064
Region: Suburban
@SHHSLofton

• Emotional intelligence & empathy
• Commitment

In 2012, I was charged with creating an all-choice, all-magnet public high school with no admissions criteria. Our two-person staff worked in a portable on the building site; we built the school and recruited the students within one academic year. I based the vision for Spring Hill High School (SHHS) on my educational philosophy: a collaborative learning community rich in personal connections. I wanted to prepare students for college and career readiness with career pathways relevant to students’ interests. This vision resulted in the Career Pathways Magnet with five academies: engineering, entertainment, entrepreneurial, environmental, and exercise science. We opened in 2013 with 560 students and 64 faculty and staff. We now have 1,050 students and 119 faculty and staff to motivate each other, celebrate successes, and work together to continue moving the vision forward. In six years, SHHS earned recognition for high academic achievement with a waiting list for students to attend.


2019 South Dakota Principal of the Year

Joe Childs

Joe Childs

Mitchell High School
Mitchell, SD

Grades: 9–12
Students: 838
Region: Rural
@joe_msd

• Dual credit coursework
• Building relationships with faculty and staff

Although it has taken time, Mitchell High School (MHS) now offers the state’s most robust career and technical education program. Students have the opportunity to enroll in courses such as Principles of Biomedical Science; Medical Interventions; Intro to Engineering Design; Digital Electronics; Dietetics and Nutrition; Welding V, and many more. This also means that MHS students have hundreds of dual credit options, which are delivered in several different methods. Some MHS faculty teach the dual credit courses at MHS, and a record number of MHS students enroll in one or more of the online courses offered through regional institutions. MHS also has a host of courses that are offered through a partnership with two local higher education institutions: Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University. This has meant that several MHS students have actually graduated from Mitchell Technical Institute prior to graduating from Mitchell High School.


2019 Tennessee Principal of the Year

Chad Smith

Chad Smith

Powell High School
Powell, TN

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,317
Region: Suburban
@ThePowellPrin

• Building school culture
• Building personal relationships with staff

As alumnus of Powell High School (PHS), I have made it my mission that our campus will be the most student-centered campus in the state of Tennessee. We have embraced this notion as the entire school community rallies around our vision of being “Knoxville’s Best.” Our students are loved, our teachers are valued, and our community supports the work that we do. One of our more recent success stories came this past Christmas. Realizing that not everyone would get what they wanted for Christmas, we asked every student in the building to make a Christmas wish. Working as a faculty and as a community, we were able to give every student at PHS a Christmas wish. The wishes were both big and small, but the true joy came when you saw the faces of the students. The love and appreciation was endless.


2019 Texas Principal of the Year

Tim L. Lambert

Tim L. Lambert

Texas Middle School
Texarkana, TX

Grades: 6–8
Students: 1,504
Region: Urban
@Timlambert2168

• Love for my students
• Passion for helping my students succeed

Five years ago, with the help of many on my administrative team, Texas Middle School made a huge change in our approach to educating students with special needs. Historically, students were placed in a self-contained setting for most of the day. Analyzing IEPs, reviewing all educational goals, comparing data, and visiting with all stakeholders, we decided to change our approach. We introduced co-teaching to Texas Middle School. This process allows students with special needs to be served in the regular classroom by a certified SPED teacher. The two teachers work side by side with every child, allowing them all to be exposed to the regular curriculum. By adding another step to the continuum of services for our students, we saw many incredible changes. These students experienced not only huge gains in their academic success, but tremendous growth in self-pride.


2019 Utah Principal of the Year

Luke Rasmussen

Luke Rasmussen

Ogden High School
Ogden, UT

Grades: 10–12
Students: 1,225
Region: Urban
@lrasmussen54

• School culture
• Building relationships

Our success story at Ogden High School over the past three years has been our improvement in graduation rates while also increasing our participation in rigorous programs and postsecondary opportunities. We have increased our graduation rate from 76 percent to over 90 percent. We have also increased the numbers of AP tests given by over 200 and simultaneously increased our pass rate by 16 percent. We have significantly increased our CE and CTE numbers by 10 percent. Our students are now near the state average in college enrollment and we increased our tech college enrollment by 200 percent. As a result, our students are having 17 percent more success than the state average in math during their first year in college and 3 percent more in English. We have done this because of a focus on positive student and teacher relationships, high expectations, and because we have an environment where our students feel extremely safe at school.


2019 Vermont Principal of the Year

Philip S. Grant

Philip S. Grant

Peoples Academy
Morristown, VT

Grades: 9–12
Students: 268
Region: Rural

• Listening
• Positive attitude

I believe that growth and learning are most likely to occur when students feel safe and included. Thus, from the onset, I worked hard at Peoples Academy to build a profoundly positive school culture. One strategy was to include student voice in decision making. This resulted in students participating on committees that redesigned our advisory structure, the school schedule, and systems for student recognition, to name a few examples. As a result, 12 years later, we have countless student-led groups meeting at all hours of the day, students orchestrating community dialogue and communication about school redesign, and students helping teachers to create effective tools and strategies for feedback and instruction. The result is best described by our visitors—whether it be a teacher intern, a visiting community member, or Bernie Sanders—who always refer to us as welcoming, friendly, engaging, and inclusive.


2019 Virginia Principal of the Year

Jesse Boyd

Jesse Boyd

King George High School
King George, VA

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,284
Region: Rural
@JesseTravisBoyd

• Outgoing and personable
• Extremely organized

This school year we began a recognition program called Inspirational Stars in hopes of building culture. If you are the recipient of an Inspirational Star Award, you are responsible for awarding the Star to a coworker that inspires. My staff decided to award me a Star of my own! This is what they said: This person makes thoughtful decisions daily on how to continually improve the experience for students and staff. He ensures that he stays abreast of all facets of the school, specifically as it relates to serving students and staff, and provides support to all these areas. He is out in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and in classrooms daily interacting with students and staff. He knows what activities everyone is involved in and makes it a point to talk to them individually about it. Being recognized by those that you serve is truly humbling.


2019 Washington Principal of the Year

Guy Allen Kovacs

Guy Allen Kovacs

Kalles Junior High School
Puyallup, WA

Grades: 7–9
Students: 910
Region: Suburban

• Culture-building
• Mentoring

As a first-generation college graduate, I understand the struggles of low-income families and the importance of positive role models during the formative years. My fifth-grade teacher, eighth-grade history teacher, and a high school coach are some of the people who made a positive difference in my life. I lead with those experiences in mind as I seek to create a school culture focused on respect, student achievement, and relationships. Building a positive school culture is my forte. Kalles Junior High School continues to improve in the areas of increased standardized test scores, creative opportunities for student involvement through new clubs and activities and decreases in the number of incidents of behaviors that lead to discipline. I strongly believe that when students feel good about themselves, they are more likely to flourish in the school environment. I work tirelessly to provide such opportunities for every student in my school.


2019 West Virginia Principal of the Year

Holly Kleppner

Holly Kleppner

Musselman High School
Inwood, WV

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,593
Region: Rural
@KleppnerH

• Collaboration
• Mentoring

In 2011, Musselman High School opened a 20-room addition. At this time, we moved our freshmen teachers to this area to create a professional learning community. Our failure rate for freshmen failing two or more classes was 34 percent. At the time our graduation rate was 84 percent. Departments were given common planning to develop goals for freshmen. Expectations were taught to all freshmen students. They learned note-taking skills, school culture, and the homework policy. Students were met with to get involved in arts, athletics, or clubs to be a part of the school culture. A freshmen study hall was created at lunchtime for struggling students. We have seen a steady increase in academic success. In 2018 we saw a less than 2 percent failure rate and a 98 percent graduation rate. The collaboration of our staff is amazing and has greatly benefited our students.


2019 Wisconsin Principal of the Year

Ty Breitlow

Ty Breitlow

Chilton High School
Chilton, WI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 387
Region: Rural
@infamousb_low

• Standards-based learning
• Reading across content areas

I worked diligently to bring a fractured faculty together to address critical issues at Chilton High School. In having a coaching mindset, a natural collaborative attitude and coordinating ongoing team-building activities, I challenged entrenched mindsets of some faculty to progress all in the benefits of collaboration, consistency, positive culture, and collective efficacy. This mindset, coupled with dedicated time, created a natural professional learning community (PLC) around student achievement and best practices in pedagogy and technology. The PLC structure then led to faculty members providing mini-lessons to colleagues on a broader scale, which made collaboration across content areas seamless. The progress broke down the silos of high school content areas and was something that other schools came to view and replicate.


2019 Wyoming Principal of the Year

Breez Longwell Daniels

Breez Longwell Daniels

Thermopolis Middle School and Hot Springs County High School
Thermopolis, WY

Grades: 5–12
Students: 420
Region: Rural
@BreezDaniels

• Building data-driven professional collaboration into the master schedule
• School culture

Our Wyoming story is simple: It’s about implementing effective professional learning community (PLC) practices and tweaking them to fit small, rural schools. It is about creating a no-excuses environment, based on evidence of effectiveness, for 420 students and 38 teachers in grades 5–12—and in the process, going from being low-performing rural schools to being recognized internationally as model schools with consistently high-performing student achievement data over the course of eight years. Big results in small schools are inspired by a culture of collaboration among staff and a belief that all students can learn at high levels. Farm to school programming, career technical education and outdoor recreation in physical education are built into the school day. Students go outside and get dirty year-round and return to the classroom where they are able to focus on 100 percent academic growth in math, reading, and science.