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H.S. Leader Named Principal of Year

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The leader of a high school in Madison, Ga., has been named the 2009 National High School Principal of the Year. And he did it, in part, by making his school work more like elementary and middle schools.

Mark D. Wilson, 45, will be honored in Washington on Oct. 25 for his work as the principal of Morgan County High School. He will receive $5,000 for use at the school of 1,000 students, 60 miles east of Atlanta.

Mr. Wilson was recognized for simultaneously improving student achievement and building a caring, collegial environment at his school. He learned he had won the prize at a school assembly Aug. 28.

MetLife, a Hartford, Conn.-based financial-services company, and the Reston, Va.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals have awarded the joint prize since 1993.

Since 2003-04, when Mr. Wilson took the helm of Morgan County High, the school’s graduation rate has risen from 71 percent to 82 percent, and the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses has increased more than tenfold, from 30 to 389. The performance gap between black and white students on the state’s 11th grade English language arts test has decreased from 18 percentage points to nine-tenths of a point, and the proportion of black students meeting state standards in mathematics has more than doubled, from 32.4 percent to 65.8 percent.

Last spring, the school saw its highest-ever college-going rate, as 77 percent of its seniors enrolled in two- or four-year colleges.

Mr. Wilson said his intent was to create more opportunity and higher expectations for students, and more collaboration among teachers. To do that, he looked to elementary and middle schools.

“A lot of what we need to do well, they’ve been doing for a long time,” he said. “Particularly working together toward a common goal, as elementary teachers do, and interdisciplinary work, as middle school teachers do. If we can do those things and have the heart of a kindergarten teacher, combined with the rigor of a high school curriculum, we’ve got something pretty special.”

More high-level courses were offered, and lower-level courses eliminated, with extra support to help students. They came in 90 minutes later on Thursdays to allow teachers collaborative planning time. An advising system was set up to give students weekly support.

See Also
See other stories on education issues in Georgia. See data on Georgia's public school system.

Vol. 28, Issue 03, Page 4

Published in Print: September 10, 2008, as H.S. Leader Named Principal of Year
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