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The following six principals have been selected as finalists for 2010 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level and High School Principal of the Year awards:

Middle Level Finalists
Sheila Kahrs
Haymon-Morris Middle School, Winder, GA
Kirk Lattimore
Crosby Middle School, Louisville, KY
Christine Lynch
John Shaw Middle School, Spokane, WA

High School Finalists
Lucy Beckham
Wando High School, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Daniel Cohan
Pomona High School, Arvada, CO
Steven Miletto
R. L. Osborne High School, Marietta, GA

 

Sheila Kahrs
Principal,
Haymon-Morris Middle School, Winder, GA
765 students, grades 6-8; 7% Asian, 19% Black, 11% Latino, 63% White, 51% free/reduced-price lunch

Sheila Kahrs, who opened Haymon-Morris Middle School in Winder, GA, in 2005, bases her work on a nonnegotiable philosophy of "values driven and data informed" and a model of shared leadership to ensure the philosophy remains in focus. For Kahrs, success begins with bringing the right people on board, then involving them in every important decision in the school. She relies heavily on teacher leadership to assist in the selection and development of new teachers, prompting teachers to constantly ask "how can we do this better?"

Not surprisingly, staff members who have worked under Kahrs’ guidance have developed their own leadership capacity, with two former assistant principals now running their own schools and numerous other assistant principals and teacher leaders enrolled in leadership development programs. "As I have been mentored and supported," Kahrs said, "I try to do the same for others."

Kahrs designed the school-wide leadership team around grade-level coordinators, which provided an ideal structure for "vertical teaming" (in which teachers in the middle school work closely with teachers in elementary school and high school to set common expectations), a formal structure for common planning, common benchmark assessments, and communication throughout the school. To allow all the necessary collaboration to take place, teachers are ensured 90 minutes of common planning time each day and are required to meet daily as a team, meet with parents as a team, and structure all exams together so students have a common assessment in each subject per grade level.

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Kirk Lattimore
Principal, 
Crosby Middle School, Louisville, KY
1,229 students, grades 6-8; 2% Asian, 25% Black, 3% Latino, 70% White, 26% free/reduced-price lunch

Kirk Lattimore has spent the last 10 of his 14 years in administration as principal at Crosby Middle School in Louisville, KY. With more than 1,200 students at Crosby, Lattimore sought to find ways to personalize the learning environment and meet the educational needs of every child. The resulting strategies reflect a relentless focus on engaging instruction and teacher collaboration. And Lattimore maintains an ambitious goal of visiting every teacher’s classroom every day to keep abreast of the quality of instruction at Crosby.

Under Lattimore’s leadership, administrators and same-subject teachers meet throughout the year in "tuning teams" to review student responses to open-response questions. Team members provide feedback to one another, then they collaboratively develop a lesson and practice teaching it to one another, continuing to fine-tune it each time before the lesson hits the classroom.

Recognizing that some students need more than engaging instruction to succeed, Lattimore has worked with principal colleagues to improve the performance of students with special needs. Through this work, Lattimore has reorganized the Exceptional Child Education (ECE) department at Crosby and fostered greater collaboration among these teachers and regular-program teachers—resulting in far few failures among ECE students after one year.

Ever visible in the hallways and at the opening and closing of the school day, this former Kentucky PTA Educator of the Year and National Milken Educator maintains two-way communication with students. Crosby students have a voice in school programs through an active student council, a ninth-grade forum, and regular focus groups. Despite its large--and growing--size, Crosby Middle School has one of the highest student satisfaction ratings among all middle schools in the county.

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Christine Lynch
Principal, 
John Shaw Middle School, Spokane, WA
607 students, grades 7-8; 8% American Indian, 5% Asian, 9% Black, 8% Latino, 70% White, 80% free/reduced-price lunch

Christine Lynch has served as principal of John Shaw Middle School in Spokane, WA, for the past 5 years of her 18 in administration. Under Lynch’s leadership, Shaw has outperformed middle level schools with similar high-poverty demographics across the state of Washington in every performance category for the past five years. There are no secrets to Lynch’s success. She simply leads her staff through the hard work of tightly aligning the curriculum, teaching to standards, using formative assessments, analyzing summative assessments, and executing powerful instruction to ensure success for every student.

Lynch strives to further the learning of teachers as well as students, and has fostered a collaborative environment with the use of "data walls," which allow all teachers to see where students are performing at the end of each unit of instruction. Teachers use the data walls to celebrate successes and to work with instructional coaches and one another to identify needed interventions. Lynch has also promoted the use of technology at Shaw and has wrangled numerous grants for both hardware and professional development in best practices for integrating technology into instruction.

It’s no surprise, then, that Spokane Public Schools regularly places aspiring leaders at Shaw to learn under Lynch. An avid student of quality guru William Glasser, Lynch is dedicated to high-quality performance and seeks to build the capacity for that performance in teacher leaders and aspiring principals. For both teachers and students, Lynch maintains high expectations accompanied by a scaffolding of support to help meet those expectations.

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Lucy Beckham
Principal, 
Wando High School, Mount Pleasant, SC
3,109 students, grades 9-12; 1% American Indian, 1% Asian, 19% Black, 2% Latino, 77% White, 18% free/reduced-price lunch

Lucy Beckham has served as principal of Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, SC, for over 10 years. Despite having 3,100 students—more than the population of some small towns—Wando is one of the highest-performing high schools in the state. Much of that success can be attributed to Beckham’s gentle leadership which has earned her a great deal of respect among teachers and colleagues.

Undaunted, Beckham took on the principalship at Wando while the district was in the process of designing a larger building to accommodate the town’s rapid growth. When the new school opened in 2004, Beckham was determined to not let the massive structure deter faculty and staff from reaching each and every student.

She helped form four career-related schools of study and a ninth-grade academy that provide opportunities for personal connections. Students at all grade levels meet with faculty advisers weekly and as they move to the upper grades, they are assigned to an administrator/counselor team who monitors and supports each student until graduation. Further, Beckham makes a strident effort to keep in constant communication with parents and the community at-large through the school’s Web site and the weekly education column she pens for the local newspaper.

Under the conviction that quality teachers are the driving force behind the success of a school, Beckham has recruited some of the nation’s top educators to work at Wando. She supports her staff through continued professional development and with the quality feedback received from the 200-plus observations completed monthly by the school’s administrative team. Teacher satisfaction is a top priority for Beckham. A recent school climate survey showed that over the last four years, teacher satisfaction with the school’s learning environment skyrocketed from 85.2% to 97.9% and in the same period, satisfaction with the social and physical environment jumped to 98.5%—a true testament to Beckham’s passion for sustaining a positive and supportive learning environment for teachers and students alike.

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Daniel Cohan
Principal, 
Pomona High School, Arvada, CO
1,590 students, grades 9-12; 1%, American Indian, 3% Asian, 3% Black, 19% Latino, 74% White, 20% free/reduced-price lunch

In 2005, when Daniel Cohan became the principal of Pomona High School in Arvada, CO, he was well aware that the school was on the brink of losing its accredited status. But that did not deter him from taking the position. With a defined vision of academic excellence, Cohan and his staff catapulted the school from the status of "probation" to "high-performing" in only two years.

Keenly aware that no initiatives can thrive unless all stakeholders are involved in the achievement of school goals, Cohan has given collaboration precedence from the beginning. When he started at Pomona, he opened the school to the media and local community to receive real and unfettered feedback on the successes and failures of the school. With an open mind, Cohan took the data back to the school and began to work on the paramount task of transforming Pomona High School.

Today, Pomona student growth scores from the Colorado Department of Education are the highest in all three academic areas (mathematics, reading, and writing) among Jefferson County’s neighborhood high schools, and they have been every year since 2006.

Cohan has become notorious throughout the community for his deep sense of pride in Pomona. During his tenure as the school’s principal, he has helped boost student and staff morale by creating a healthy, positive atmosphere where safety and respect are top priorities. In four short years, he has built trust among teachers, improved parental satisfaction, and created student leadership teams where none had existed.

A new "ladder of interventions" was also implemented under Cohan’s leadership to meet the diverse needs of all students. The newly created programs include a mandatory summer program for incoming ninth graders focusing on reading, writing, and math; a pull-out program for students below proficiency in one of four subject areas; a study hall; a labs program that provides additional assistance for any student in a core discipline; an in-school online credit recovery program; a dual-enrollment program; and an arts and humanities program for talented and motivated students.

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Steven Miletto
Principal,
Osbourne High School, Marietta, GA
1,659 students, grades 9-12; 3% Asian, 49% Black, 40% Latino, 8% White, 80% free/reduced-price lunch

Steven Miletto was a breath of fresh air to the struggling R. L. Osborne High School in Marietta, GA, when he was hired on as principal in 2003. Wasting no time, he set out to reinvigorate the students and staff with a new school vision, "No Walls." His plan to break down the barriers that prevent needs from being addressed or inhibit beliefs in higher aspirations quickly set into motion.

An innovative leader, Miletto created numerous programs that encourage the success of every student. He implemented a School Improvement Plan to articulate instructional priorities to students, parents, staff, and the community. To keep students from falling off the school’s radar, he created 9th- and 10th-grade academies. For 11th and 12th graders, he started the Graduation Support Team, an initiative that works to identify juniors and seniors most at-risk for failing or not passing state graduation tests.

Together these programs have led to a spike in the school’s graduation rate and an increase in the rigor of student courses. The AP program has grown exponentially under Miletto’s leadership and the number of students enrolled in AP courses has grown from 47 (2004) to 391 (2009), earning the school recognition in Newsweek’s Best American High Schools program. Another positive result of these efforts is a decrease in student absences of more than 15 days from 41% to 15.3% in just four years.

To meet the needs of Osborne’s high-minority population, Miletto created the HOLA Team, a program made up of staff members, teachers, and students that meets regularly to assist the school’s Hispanic families. Since its induction, parental involvement among Hispanic parents has increased dramatically and Hispanic students have scored higher on standardized tests and have enrolled in more AP courses.

To his students, Miletto is just a regular guy who can often be seen playing pick-up games of soccer after school or playing the trumpet alongside the band in football games. But to the community of Marietta, he is the change agent who has been instrumental in the transformation of Osborne High School.

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These six principals will be interviewed on Monday, August 17, in Arlington, VA, by a panel of judges seeking to name one middle level and one high school principal as the 2010 MetLife/NASSP National Principals of the Year. The search began in early 2009 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 six finalists each receive a $1,500 grant. The two national award winners receive an additional grant of $3,500. The grants are used to promote the advancement of learning opportunities for students or other related investments such as capital improvements, the purchase of technology-related equipment, or funding specific educational programs.