The Principals' Office Blog

From the Nation’s Capital to Southeast Asia

Diane is representing NAESP and elementary and middle-level principals at the East Asia Regional Conference of Overseas Schools (EARCOS) Administrators' Conference, which is an Overseas Schools initiative that is supported by the U.S. Department of State. NAESP serves as a grant administrator for the Office of Overseas Schools.
After an inspiring visit to Washington, D.C., to participate in NAESP’s board meeting and to celebrate the 2009 National Distinguished Principals, I prepared to travel to the East Asia Regional Conference of Overseas Schools (EARCOS) Administrators' Conference, whose theme is “Inspiring Students to Change the World.” The conference is being held in Shangri-la Edsa, Philippines, and participants are educators from Southeast Asia—including the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Laos, and Cambodia—as well as Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
I prepared for the 27 hour trip to Manila by drinking lots of water and exercising prior to the conference. But after stops in Houston, Honolulu, and Guam before my destination of Manila, I was ready for land and lots of sleep! The warm reception by the EARCOS staff, including the executive director, made up for my long journey. After locating the room where I will present a workshop next week, the staff provided a tour of the facilities and accommodations at the hotel. 
The conference site, Edna Shangri La is just as exotic as its name implies. The formal welcome by hotel staff was impressive, as natives dressed in matching blue gowns greeted guests upon entrance. Security guards with dogs guarded the grand entrances to the palatial hotel. All Saints Day and All Souls Day are celebrated here, as is Halloween. Millions of people are expected to visit cemeteries over the weekend prior to All Saints Day on Nov. 1.
Tonight we are expecting a typhoon in Manila, one of 19 that have hit the area this year. We are hopeful that participants who have not yet arrived will also have safe travels. Stay tuned!
Diane Cargile, NAESP President

NDP White House Tour

National Distinguished Principals toured the White House as part of a two-day program.  

Fall NAESP Board of Directors Meeting

Last week, the NAESP Board of Directors greeted its two newest board members as they hit the ground running, attending orientation and participating in all board activities. Fidelia Sturdivant, principal of College Park Elementary School in East Orange, New Jersey, represents principals in Zone 2. Jerry DeGrange, principal of Liberty Elementary School in Frederick, Maryland, represents principals in Zone 3. During the three days of meetings, board members made key decisions that will have a lasting impact on principals and the students they serve. Board members also learned firsthand of the positive influence NAESP staff members have had with legislators on Capitol Hill on behalf of principals. 
One area of importance has been the language used to draft NAESP’s recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA. The board approved the changes that updated the language, focusing on the role of the principal and addressing current trends and priorities as well as many other items of interest to principals. The board participated in substantive discussions and actions that will advance NAESP's mission and goals throughout their meetings. The board also received an overview of the planned activities for the National Distinguished Principals who were arriving on October 22nd as well as their role in the program.

Duncan Addresses Nation's Top K-8 Principals

In a speech to the 2009 class of National Distinguished Principals (NDPs) on Oct. 23, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called principals the CEOs of the education world and recognized the important role they play in the education system. “We have no good schools in this country where there’s not a good principal,” he said.
The Education Secretary described in great detail the policy initiatives he wants to pursue over the next three years, painting a picture of an administration dedicated to giving principals and other education leaders the tools they need to dramatically improve the country’s school system. “We have to do everything we can to support you, to nurture the next generation of principals, and to figure out how we share your expertise and passion,” Duncan said.
He also referred to the Department of Education as part of the problem and said internal reform was needed. “We’re trying to move from being a big compliance driven bureaucracy to an engine of innovation.” But Duncan’s address chiefly paid tribute to the 63 NDPs from across the country and abroad who came to Washington for two days to receive recognition for their work and learn about the practices and policies being implemented by their peers. 

Networking + Appreciation = Event of a Lifetime

Where do I begin to tell you about all of the wonderful events that have occurred since I arrived in Washington, D.C. for the National Distinguished Principals (NDP) event of a lifetime? The program began with a slideshow featuring all of the NDPs and two minute speeches given by each NDP—what a challenge to say all we want to about our great staffs, students, and families in two minutes!
Later we dressed up for a welcoming reception at the U.S. Department of State and were greeted by U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. After the reception, I went to Bobby Van’s Steakhouse for dinner with principals from my region. 
Already, I have gleaned so many great ideas from other principals to share back home. Visiting and networking with colleagues is the best. It’s great to have friends across the entire United States! 
We have been treated like royalty since we have been in Washington. After each event, we have received a gift. These gifts include an NDP canvas bag, mug, pin, letter opener, and book mark. I can hardly wait to see what happens today!
What would staff feel like if we could shower them with little gifts and mementos to make them feel special? With something to think about, this is Jackie McNamara, make it a great day or not, the choice is yours! 
  Jackie McNamara, 2009 NDP

A Principal’s Journey to the Nation’s Capital

Yesterday, my husband and I flew in from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Washington, D.C., for the NDP program. Our flight left at 5:00 a.m. Did you even know that flights left at that time of the morning?  We arrived at the Capital Hilton and knew that this was going to be an event to be remembered. 
The big sign hanging in the lobby was there to greet all NDPs. It made me feel very welcome. I am wondering what we all can do in our schools to make children feel welcome every day of the school year.  Wouldn’t it be cool if all of our children’s families also felt as welcome as my husband and I did yesterday when we walked into the hotel? We have thought about many ways to make families welcome at Cleveland Elementary, where I am principal, but I think everyone should have the opportunity to feel as welcome as we have since we have been here in Washington, D.C. With something to think about, this is Jackie McNamara, make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours!
Jackie McNamara, 2009 NDP

Nation’s Top Principals Gather in Washington, D.C., for Distinguished Program

Who are the 2009 National Distinguished Principals (NDPs)? They are a diverse group of 63 educators  who over the past year have made superior contributions and tangible improvements to the learning communities they lead. NAESP, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, is taking time this fall to honor the achievements of these outstanding principals from across the country and abroad through the NDP program. The program has been funded by VALIC for the past 20 years.
From Oct. 22-23, the NDPs will be in Washington, D.C., to receive recognition for their work and achievements. The program includes a welcoming reception at the U.S. State Department, a tour of the White House, and an awards banquet featuring an address by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
To capture this year’s events from the perspectives of the attendees and to celebrate the idea of professional development through collaboration, the Principals’ Office will feature guest blogging from 2009 NDP Jackie McNamara, principal of Cleveland Elementary School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Check back throughout the week to read the latest take on this year’s NDP program.

Sleepless Nights

As the school year gets into full gear, there are bound to be particular issues that you are facing as principals. So in the November/December edition of My Two Cents, we asked readers to let us know: What work-related issue keeps you up at night?
In addition to the responses featured in Principal magazine, here’s one more:
What issue keeps me up at night? Attendance! How can we teach our children when they are not here? What can we do to change the local culture so families will understand and believe that education has real value and will pay dividends forever? Once students are in the building, we are off and running, but we can't make a difference if they are not here.
Susan Hubbard, PrincipalUp River SchoolsSleetmute, Alaska
Let us know – what specific school issue leaves you tossing and turning in the middle of the night?

To Skip a Grade or Not To Skip

Marty Nemko, author of the November/December Speaking Out article, writes that high-ability students are better off skipping a grade than remaining in the same grade in which the teacher would need to offer differentiated instruction. “Grade skipping instantly gives high-potential students a much more appropriate education without imposing more work on teachers than they’re likely to do,” the article states.
Are you more likely to encourage grade skipping or differentiated/gifted instruction in your school? What do you believe are the pros and cons of grade skipping?

Membership Has Its Privileges

Part of my objective in attending state conferences is to find out more about the challenges and issues schools around the nation face and learn more about state affiliates so that I can better represent principals as NAESP president. This week I attended a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP) conference that addressed the rationale for becoming involved in professional organizations. The panelists highlighted gaining more information about education and professional resources, a greater sense of professionalism, and a clearer understanding of the power of the principal.
In addition to learning about the benefits of professional affiliation, I also had the opportunity to visit a local school and find out what’s on principals’ minds in Pennsylvania. On a tour of Park Forest Elementary School, I experienced the essence of being in tune with nature. This school’s K-5 students have taken full advantage of their park-like setting of being nestled in between rolling hills and tall trees. With grant funding they have created flower gardens, bird-viewing stations, vegetable gardens, a nature center, and an amphitheater. As we toured the manicured grounds and well-cared-for facility, the quality of care exhibited by the principal, staff, and students was evident. Education occurs on the outside as well as the inside of this school.
I also talked with PAESSP President Dave Bieri about what’s on a lot of principals’ minds: the flu season. Today the H1N1 vaccination became available in selected states across the country. Even though Bieri’s city, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is not a selected site for the first dose of the vaccination, school officials are working diligently to keep students healthy. School officials are working with school nurses to set up flu clinics during October, and students and staff are taking precautions to stay healthy. 
I enjoyed attending PAESSP’s conference because it offered opportunities for networking and professional growth. I look forward to updating you about my next trip.   

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