January 16, 2014

Bob Farrace, NASSP


Three School Leaders Named Finalists
for Nation's Top Assistant Principal

National winner will be announced at NASSP conference in February

Reston, VA–Three exceptional school leaders have been selected as finalists for 2014 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year:

  • Clay McDonald, Piedmont High School, Piedmont, OK
  • Deborah Miller, Park Hill High School, Kansas City, MO
  • Courtney Voshell, Dover High School, Dover, DE

A national winner will be selected from these finalists in February and all state and national honorees will be recognized at an April black-tie gala in Washington, DC.

“Assistant principals play a critical role in our nation’s schools and we are honored to recognize these three outstanding school leaders for their commitment to that role,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP executive director. “These educators model all that can be accomplished when school leaders are dedicated to raising student achievement and improving their schools.”

NASSP and school furniture manufacturer Virco Inc. annually honor a winner from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Selection criteria are built around collaborative leadership; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and school personalization—the core areas of the NASSP Breaking Ranks Framework for school improvement. The three finalists were selected from the pool of state winners, and one national winner will be identified and announced during the NASSP conference, Ignite 2014, which will be held February 6-8 in Dallas, TX. Each finalist will receive $1,500 and the national winner will be awarded an additional $3,500, which can be used for personal professional development or for a school improvement project.

All state winners will be honored at a three-day event in Washington, DC in April. Event highlights include a national speaker, visits to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators, and networking with some of the best assistant principals across the nation. The event culminates with a black-tie gala to recognize the achievements of each of the state honorees, the national finalists, and the national winner.

Clay McDonald
In his eight years as assistant principal at Piedmont High School, McDonald has implemented a plethora of new initiatives, all aimed at developing a strong and positive learning environment. He wrote and obtained a grant to be part of the High Schools that Work (HSTW) initiative and developed focus groups to develop new ideas for the school while enabling students and teachers to achieve at a higher level. Every teacher is part of a focus group, allowing all faculty members to have their voices heard when it comes to school decisions.

After a school survey was completed that indicated many students do no reading outside of the classroom, McDonald lead the development of a reading program to increase reading and literacy. When he saw that ACT scores were staying stagnant or growing very slowly, McDonald offered a professional development session to help teachers understand the ACT, started an ACT Day at the school to help students, and created an ACT prep course, which has seen an increase in enrollment every year.

In an attempt to decrease the number of students failing classes, McDonald developed a school wide policy where students have until the end of the semester to turn in uncompleted assignments for up to 60% of the final grade before it turns into a zero. This initiative has decreased the failing list and lead to more students passing courses.

McDonald also helped create an advisor-advisory program, where teachers are assigned to a small group of about 15 students who they can get to know personally. In these groups, teachers give information about college and careers, graduation requirements, and school issues such as bullying. The program helps to develop positive relationships between teachers and students.  

“Our school received a rating of "A" on the Oklahoma State Department of Education's A-F Report Card,” said Piedmont High School Principal Layne Jones. “Mr. McDonald has been instrumental in this grade as he has helped in the different areas that are vital to this grade [including] graduation rate, EOI performance, Advanced Placement coursework, and student growth.”

Deborah Miller
Among her many duties at Park Hill High School, one of Miller’s priorities is ensuring her students are ready to go to and succeed in college, and implemented two initiatives to work towards that goal.

After realizing that a number of her students didn’t view college as a realistic goal, Miller started the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) program to identify and provide extra college readiness support to students who were academically average students, who were most often underrepresented on college campuses, and whose parents hadn’t attended college. The program’s success has lead it to grow from five staff members supporting one section of 25 students to 35 staff members leading four sections of students. In addition, the AVID program at Park Hill has served as an example for other schools in the state and helped Park Hill start partnerships with numerous colleges and universities.

Miller also spearheaded the utilization of the College Board’s Advancement Placement Program after noting through data that many students weren’t being accepted to the college of their choice, were required to complete remedial coursework in college or failed to return to their college after freshman year. She helped create a culture where participation in advanced coursework and challenging classes was the expectation rather than the exception. She educated students and parents about the benefits of Advanced Placement courses and helped them understand that college readiness is fundamentally different than high school competence.

“It is not an overstatement to claim much of the tremendous success of Park Hill High School finds its roots in the continuous commitment and extraordinary professional work of Dr. Miller,” said Park Hill High School Principal J. Bradford Kincheloe.

Courtney Voshell
Dover High School Principal Courtney Voshell believes that the key to success for any school leader is to always remember that they are still teachers and to never forget that all teachers need support and feedback.

In 2010, during Voshell’s first year as assistant principal, Dover High School was labeled a failing school. As a new administrator, Voshell harked on her years of teaching experience at the school to provide insight from a teacher’s perspective and share ideas on how she thought the school could improve. She led the implementation of professional learning communities at the school to help teachers collaborate and share best practices and organize data to make data-driven decisions.

As part of her strong belief in the power of personalization in schools, Voshell makes sure to connect with teachers and students by completing weekly walkthroughs, where she provides instructional feedback to teachers and interacts and works with students on their classroom activities.  These walkthroughs are just one example of Voshell’s commitment to maintaining an instructional focus as an assistant principal, regardless of the many administration duties that often make that a challenge.

In the two full school years since Dover High School was labeled a failing school, Voshell has helped the school get back on track and meet all student targets on both state assessment and graduation cohort.

“Using her natural leadership style, and her creativity, Dr. Voshell created reforms that addressed in positive and enduring ways many school-wide problems such as at-risk students and those ever-so-important teacher evaluations,” said Dover High School Principal Evelyn Edney. “She has helped the staff establish academic, career and technical, and school climate means to meet the goal of increasing student achievement [and] Dr. Voshell has done wonders for raising student achievement.”   

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The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor SocietyNational Junior Honor SocietyNational Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.

About Virco
As America’s leading manufacturer and supplier of furniture and equipment for K–12 schools, Virco is proud to support NASSP. Virco’s great classroom furniture selection includes best-selling ZUMA® models, traditional chairs and desks, and all-new Parameter®, TEXT®, Metaphor® and Telos® items. In 2005, ZUMA and ZUMAfrd™ became the first classroom furniture products to earn GREENGUARD® for Children and Schools certification; now, Virco has hundreds of Greenguard-certified products. Virco offers the classroom furniture industry’s only Take-Back Program that helps schools recycle their outof-service furniture. If you’re faced with a major FF&E purchasing project, check out Virco’s stress-free PlanSCAPE® service!