The following three assistant principals were selected as finalists for the 2013 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year award:

Jada Kidd
Simpsonville Hillcrest High School
Simpsonville, SC

A former correctional officer and reserve deputy, Kidd used to work with young people to help them overcome negative behavior. She switched to education to help students make positive decisions first so they would not end up in the judicial system. Her efforts have made a significant impact. While Kidd served as assistant principal in charge of the freshman academy at Wade Hampton High School, the average GPA increased from 3.03 in 2007 to 4.5 when she departed the school in 2012 to head to Hillcrest. During that same period, the volume of discipline referrals shrunk from 1,200 per year to 400. The success can be attributed to a focus on collaborative lesson planning, a common and consistent discipline policy, and common instructional strategies among teachers.

During her tenure at Wade Hampton, Kidd started a girls mentoring group, Diamonds, to help girls build their leadership skills and connect with successful businesswomen in the community. She is also regarded as a technology leader in her district, where she was selected to pilot the district’s bring-your-own-device program.

“Ms. Kidd conveys a sense of purpose and importance to the students and contributes to a positive learning environment through the initiatives she has implemented,” said Wade Hampton Principal Lance Radford. “These initiatives focus on student achievement and the importance of the connections between educators and learners. Her efforts have resulted in tremendous gains in achievement.”

Rebecca Roberts
Villa Park High School
Villa Park, CA

Roberts’ philosophy of school leadership draws on the adage by Theodore Roosevelt, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know you care.” Her capacity for caring about each student as an individual has met with remarkable success in her school of more than 2,500 students. Roberts has led the development of numerous intervention programs to provide extra time and support to students who need it. To help students stay on track to graduation, she created an afterschool credit-recovery program. The success of this model led to its adoption districtwide. When an examination of the data revealed that freshman transitions to high school were problematic, Roberts researched successful programs and implemented Link Crew to smooth the transition to Villa Park. And with a growing population of students with limited English proficiency (LEP), Roberts led the creation of a “boot camp” for the six weeks prior to the March state test administration. The initiative led to stronger bonds with the families of LEP students and a significant improvement in their pass rates on state tests.

“Dr. Roberts is an instructional leader who makes all decisions based on what is in the best interest of students and student achievement,” said Villa Park Principal Ed Howard. “Starting with a schoolwide vision and working toward an individual performance goal for all teachers has been perfect for transforming our staff into a focused collaborative team of educators. Her approach and implementation of this vision have been nothing short of spectacular.”

Matthew Willis
William C. Hinkley High School
Aurora, CO

In the short time since Willis has been at William C. Hinkley High School, the high-poverty school has experienced a dramatic shift in culture. At one point, the diverse student population clashed, gang activity was prevalent, and most students showed up late to class—if they showed up at all. To regain control, Willis immediately increased staff presence in the hallways, developed and implemented a stricter attendance policy, and implemented academic and behavioral interventions.

Invested in ending the school-to-prison pipeline, he turned to restorative justice to keep students in school and empower them to take ownership of their success. Willis trained staff in restorative practices and secured funding from the Denver Foundation to facilitate ongoing professional development and implementation. Within the first year, the school conducted 263 restorative sessions and reduced minor offense referrals by 18 percent.

Willis also worked with staff to create a freshman academy, increase collaboration, and overhaul the master schedule. He gave teachers more common planning time and strengthened professional learning communities. He raised student participation in a dual-credit program and steered counselors toward a unified focus on college readiness and acceptance—growing scholarships to over $3.1 million and doubling acceptance rates.

“Matthew practices personal excellence and collaborative leadership and consistently demonstrates a focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” said Jinger Haberer, principal of Hinkley. “Most importantly, Matthew is passionate about instilling a college-bound vision for every student…and tenacious about achieving high academic results.”