The search for the National Principal of the Year begins every spring as each state principal’s association selects its State Principals of the Year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selects three finalists.

2022 National Principal of the Year Finalists

2021 Georgia Principal of the Year
Keith L. Ball

Marietta High School
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 desperately needed a clear vision and consistent leadership, so from day one Ball intentionally established meaningful ways for students to actively participate in leading it. One of the most impactful tools Ball used was the Cognia eleot 2.0 training certification to observe and document classroom environments, ensuring student-centered, meaningful, and equitable instruction. Ball’s administration also made finances transparent and simplified them to provide staff and students the materials they needed in a timely manner. All the hard work began to pay off in 2019 when Marietta finally earned a “B” on the state report card. In 2020, it earned the highest graduation rate in the school’s 128-year history.

2021 Missouri Principal of the Year
Beth Houf

Fulton Middle School
Fulton, MO

For Principal Beth Houf, equity at Fulton Middle School begins with her leadership. In 2015, the school was not meeting student needs, the culture was toxic, and trust was low. Houf and her team began intensive training in professional learning communities to ensure that best practices, a viable curriculum, quality assessments, and educational interventions were all founded on a collaborative culture. Early on, Houf saw the need 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 in trauma-informed teaching. This schoolwide commitment led to a 40% reduction in discipline referrals.

2021 Massachusetts Principal of the Year
Ted McCarthy

Sutton High School
Sutton, MA

In Ted McCarthy’s time as principal of Sutton High School, he has worked hard to make the school a place where students and staff love to learn and grow. One of the ways he’s accomplished this is by encouraging students and teachers to play a larger role in shaping the school’s direction. 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.