A Distinguished Group

NAESP recognized the top principals in the country and overseas with the title of 2018 National Distinguished Principals and held a two-day celebration in their honor.
Communicator
October 2018, Volume 42, Issue 2

NAESP recognized the top principals in the country and overseas with the title of 2018 National Distinguished Principals (NDPs) and held a celebration in their honor. NDPs flew in to Washington, D.C., from around the globe—even from Germany, the Netherlands, and India—to take part in our Oct. 11-12 ceremony. They left with a new group of friends and colleagues they can add to their professional learning networks.

Speech! Speech!

The opening event—2-minute speeches from each NDP—ended up being a favorite of many principals.

“I was energized by the experiences the other NDPs shared during their 2-minute speeches,” said Craig McCalla of Cornerstone Elementary in Dexter, Michigan, after the speeches. “There are so many things we all have in common. Our passions around our students and staff. The support of our families and communities. The desire to continue to be better.”  

New Jersey principal Dumar Burgess shares his story with fellow NDPs.*

A few took the time to speak about overcoming challenges.

“When they cut our budget a year ago, our motto became, ‘We got this.’ And we do,” said David Levesque of Pleasant Street School in Laconia, New Hampshire.

They talked about needing a network to support them.

“No principal can or should do anything in isolation,” said Adam Garth Schmucker, principal of Trumbauersville Elementary School in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

And they spoke about putting students first.

“One of my passions is feeding children,” said Renee Warner, principal of Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School in Buckhannon, West Virginia. “We created a school food pantry and are feeding 10 percent of our student population.”

Plain and simple, “every single child has to be successful,” said Andy Jacks of Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia.

A Historic Welcome

Then it was time for a little fun. NAESP and the U.S. Department of State hosted a reception at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. NAESP President Eric Cardwell welcomed the group before introducing the guest speakers.

Up first was National Postal Museum Director of Education Dr. Matthew White, who spoke about programs the museum has in place to help students in their education.

Next, Nicole Nason, assistant secretary, Bureau of Administration, acknowledged principals for their hard work and dedication to their students, families, and communities.

“You create school environments that kindle the love of learning,” said Nason. “What you do not only directly shapes our nation’s future, but it also shapes the world’s future.”

Making Memories

The next morning, NDPs tool the two-block walk to the White House, where they gathered for a group picture and then went inside for a tour.

Later than morning, the NDPs shared mementos from their states with other principals.

NDPs sharing mementos from their states with one another.*

All the way from Hawaii, Linell Dilwith of Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in Honolulu, brought leis for everyone. Timothy Messick of American School of the Hague in Wassenaar, Netherlands, brought stroopwafels. Others like Seth Daub of Catalina Elementary School in Orlando, Florida, brought keepsakes like Mickey Mouse ears.

On to the Department of Education

Next up was a trip to the Department of Education, where the NDPs had a chance to speak with senior-level officials in a small group setting and during a reception the department held in their honor.

Each NDP could choose to attend one of three sessions:

  • "ESSA and Rethinking K–12 Education" with Assistant Secretary Frank Brogan, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • "Rethinking IDEA" with Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
  • "Update on the Federal Commission on School Safety" with Kent Talbert, senior advisor to the deputy secretary, and Meredith Miller, senior policy advisor in the office of the deputy secretary.

Pièce De Résistance

The highlight of the two-day celebration was a gala that recognized the NDPs. Opening the ceremony was Brogan, who joined us after speaking with NDPs at the U.S. Department of Education earlier that day. Brogan, a former principal, spoke about how vital the principal role is in schools and how much the U.S. Department of Education appreciates what they do every day for children in this country.

Then Cardwell presented each NDP with an engraved bell and a plaque. One by one, our NDPs crossed the stage to be honored before dancing the night away.

“I did not want to go sleep Friday night, because I didn't want the event to end,” said Waller Martin Jr. of the Enterprise Early Education Center in Alabama. “I found myself looking for fellow NDPs in the hotel lobby on Saturday. … I am forever grateful for the bond that I established with this special group of principals.”

What’s next for NDPs? Bigger and better achievements. Unwavering support of students. And Disney World, of course.

“The entire experience was truly magical,” said Daub. “I am taking my bell and going to Disney World!”

*All images courtesy of Lifetouch Photography

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