The staff at Morgan County High School follows a simple rule for working with students: make exceptions. Principal Mark Wilson, in fact, wants all students to be treated as exceptions, because as he sees it, each student brings a unique set of strengths and needs.

No doubt, this attitude is a large part of the reason Wilson was selected as the 2009 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year.

At Morgan County, students are encouraged to ask for what they need, dream about what they want to do and be, and allow the school to do something for them. Every student has an advisor, and a weekly advisory period is embedded within the schedule. Students gain confidence through positive recognition and praise.

This personalization is combined with collaboration to create a cornerstone of success. This ensures that teachers have time to work together to develop broad plans to meet the needs of the students as a whole, as well as the needs of specific students as individuals.

Listen to an interview with Mark Wilson

Wilson, who received the award at a surprise schoolwide assembly August 28, has lead the 1,000-student school in Madison, GA, since 2003. Over the years, he has overseen the elimination of lower-level classes and the addition of an International Baccalaureate program, dual enrollment courses, a Freshman Academy, a flexible hybrid schedule, and a continuous grading policy that eliminated the traditional interval-averaging method.

Today, graduation rates at Morgan County have improved, as have test scores, the percentage of students taking higher-level math, and the number of students who take AP or IB classes.

The search for the 2009 National Principal of the Year began in early 2008 as each state principal's association selected its State Principal of the Year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. The national high school winner and middle level winner, who will be named in September, will be recognized in Washington, D.C. during the Principals' Institute for State and National Principals of the Year, October 24–26, 2008.

The six finalists each receive a $1,500 grant. The two national award winners receive an additional $3,500 grant. The grants are used to promote the advancement of learning opportunities for students or other related investments, such as capital improvements, technology-related equipment, or specific educational programs.

For more information about the MetLife/NASSP State and National Principal of the Year programs and winners, visit