Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Principals

Minnesota principal reflects on her National Distinguished Principals experience in the nation’s Capitol.

By Jessica Cabeen
October 2017, Volume 41, Issue 2

On October 12-13 in Washington D.C., NAESP celebrated school leaders from across the globe at the 34th anniversary of the National Distinguished Principal Program. This program is an opportunity to recognize principals of schools “in which a commitment to excellence is evident; in which the programs are designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students; and in which community ties with parents and local business organizations have been firmly established.”

Attending this event is an opportunity to roll out the red carpet for school leaders. The two days began with each school leader delivering a two-minute speech of how he or she was selected for this award. Principals creatively shared their stories, custom raps, poems, and dances. Themes throughout the speeches included servant leadership, high expectations, joys in the journey and relentless pursuits for their school communities. Later that evening the red carpet took the distinguished principals and their guest to an evening at the National Portrait Gallery with special guests Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Harry Mahar and Director of the Department of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State, Dr. Keith Miller.

Friday morning principals were up early and engaged with a presentation on arts integration from Cheri Sterman, director of education at Crayola, and 2016 NDP from Vermont, Bobby Riley. After the session all principals took a bus to the United States Capitol for a group photo, followed by historical tours inside. The tour guides gave us incredible depth to the rich history of the artifacts and design of this landmark. Upon return to the Capitol Hilton, the red carpet treatment continued with generous special mementos brought from each state for all of the Distinguished Principals and Zone Directors.

The next event on the red carpet was the pre show before the awards banquet Friday night. Everyone arrived dressed up and excited to take pictures and share in the excitement of the final event. At 7p.m., the curtains were pulled back to reveal an incredible stage set to recognize the efforts of these incredible leaders. Each principal had a moment to shine on stage, as Dr. L. Earl Franks, CAE, executive director of NAESP, shared remarks, and Ernie Mannino, Deputy Executive Director of NAESP, read each awardee’s name. As they crossed the stage each principal received their plaque from NAESP President Brian K. Partin, and commemorative bell from NAESP President-Elect Eric Cardwell. At the conclusion of the presentation of awards each recipient stood and rang their bell as an annual tradition, “for each child that they have served.”

The post award ceremony included dancing and final pictures to take back to share with families, students and the school communities that were cheering each recipient on from behind the scenes. And, the icing on the cake, White House tour Saturday morning for all NDPs and their guests.

What would a red carpet event be without photos? Lifetouch was everywhere, all the time capturing every moment of the two days. Our NAESP Zone Directors held strong supportive roles throughout the events and made sure everything went smoothly. Rounding out the supporting cast included the incredible staff of NAESP. From the opening greetings to the final White House tour, NAESP staff had every detail covered and ensured this event would be memorable for the recognized principals.

Leading up to and during the two days of events, previous winners, our Zone Directors, and NAESP staff told us to “soak it all in” and “enjoy this moment.” School leaders today have never-ending roles and don’t always have the opportunity to stop and celebrate their accomplishments. The two days in Washington D.C. will leave lasting memories and long-standing relationships with incredible school leaders who are doing amazing things.

Past-President of NAESP Dr. Steven Geis, said it best, “educators today should be recognized and celebrated.” Dr. Geis, I fully agree.

Jessica Cabeen, a member of the 2017 class of National Distinguished Principals is principal of the Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin, Minnesota.

Photos courtesy of Lifetouch. View the full gallery here.


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