Molly Howard, the principal of Jefferson County High School in Louisville, Ga., will be honored next month in Washington as the 2008 National High School Principal of the Year.
Ms. Howard has led the school since 1995, when two high schools in the county were closed and consolidated to form her school. The change got “mixed community reaction,” the National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife Inc., a New York City-based insurance company, said this month in announcing Ms. Howard’s award.
But under her leadership, the school has thrived.
In particular, she is recognized for setting higher expectations for students and eliminating low-level courses. In 1995, more than half the county’s adults didn’t have high school diplomas, and 70 percent of the high school students graduated without seeking to go on to higher education, the groups said.
Now, the 1,000-student school requires 9thgraders to take college-preparatory classes in core subjects. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding Georgia’s standards on the state’s mandated end-of-course algebra test has risen to 68 percent, from 41.7 percent.
“One of the most important things any principal can do is to instill a sense of hope in the school and the community,” Gerald N. Tirozzi, the executive director of the Reston, Va.-based NASSP, said in a statement. “Molly has demonstrated remarkable skills as a leader in the face of some very difficult odds.”