September 24, 2003 1 min read

Principals of the Year

When James D. Donnelly walked toward his school auditorium last week for what he thought was a regular assembly, he was startled by the deafening noise. Usually, it was quiet at the start of an assembly.

He didn’t know that the noise was for him until he stepped into the auditorium.

“Then I saw my former superintendent and the MetLife representative on stage,” he said. “That’s when the dime dropped. I’m still kind of in buzz. It was awesome.”

The National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife Resources, a nonprofit retirement-planning company, named Mr. Donnelly, the principal of the 500-student James A. Green High School in Dolgeville, N.Y., the National High School Principal of the Year.

Mr. Donnelly, 43, an 11-year veteran principal, took over the troubled school’s leadership in 1993 and faced down chronic disciplinary problems and low academic performance. He helped improve the school’s graduation rate and oversaw a large decline in disciplinary reports.

During the school assembly— which also included members of his family, friends, and former co-workers—Mr. Donnelly was honored with a $10,000 prize. Mr. Donnelly said the money would be used for staff development and to help improve math assessment.

Meanwhile, Doug Lowery, the principal of the 600-student Hilliard Memorial Middle School in Hilliard, Ohio, was named the National Middle Level Principal of the Year.

At press time, staff members at Mr. Lowery’s school were still planning the surprise celebration to let him know that he had been given the award.

The Hilliard principal, who has worked in the 13,800-student Hilliard City School District for 12 years, was recognized by NASSP and MetLife Resources for his commitment to improving the school’s learning environment and encouraging community involvement in students’ education. He will also receive a $10,000 award.

—Marianne D. Hurst