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Cathy Carnahan

2011 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year Cathy Carnahan started at Duniway Middle School in McMinnville, OR, in 1993 and has since transitioned from the school's assistant principal to its principal.

During that time, she has never lost sight of the "collaborative spirit" that defines the staff. In fact, over the last five years, that atmosphere of teamwork has led to increased test scores, decreased referrals, and an impressive attendance rate of 95% or higher.

Operating under the notion that improving student achievement requires the best teachers, Carnahan is devoted to recruiting, retaining, and supporting a highly qualified staff. A strong advocate of professional development, Carnahan encourages Duniway's "community of learners" to participate in ongoing trainings and workshops.

In her faculty meetings, she's quick to bring the focus to the students.

"Under Cathy's leadership, every faculty meeting is focused on instructional best practices designed to enhance student learning," said Maryalice Russell, superintendent of the McMinnville School District No. 40.

Each year, Russell chooses an exemplary teacher from Duniway to represent the profession at the district's welcome-back gathering. "This is possible because of the value Cathy places on learning and the manner in which she inspires teachers to implement strong instructional practices," Russell said.

When in the classroom, Carnahan regularly checks in with teachers to find out what is being taught, how progress is being tracked, and how students are being engaged. For those students requiring additional interventions, Carnahan and a group of teachers developed a "missed deadline list" that has her talking weekly to struggling students and their parents to ensure accountability.

"With Cathy's drive and tenacity for excellence, Duniway has become a model of rigorous, personalized learning," said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. "She never loses sight of what's best for the students and she makes sure that conversations always return to curriculum, instruction, and assessment—central components of NASSP's Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement. We congratulate Cathy for receiving this honor."

"We applaud Cathy Carnahan for her innovative methods to engage students and parents in the learning process," said Thomas G. Hogan, Jr., senior vice president and head of MetLife Resources. "Her efforts are helping students to realize their potential and creating a brighter future for the community."

"It is important to recognize outstanding school leadership," said Dennis White, vice president of Corporate Contributions for MetLife. "The MetLife/NASSP Principal of the Year Program acknowledges both the crucial role of principals as leaders and individuals who go above and beyond to make their schools the best they can be for students, teachers, and communities."

Carnahan will be honored during an awards banquet on October 1 in Washington, D.C., to kick off National Principals Month.

Photo by Mark Finkenstaedt