The National Association of Secondary School Principals named finalists for its 2024 Principal of the Year Award Thursday, highlighting three school leaders for their work promoting equity, child well-being, and academic excellence.
The finalists are Sham Bevel, principal of the Bayside Sixth Grade Campus in Virginia Beach, Va.; Andrew Farley, principal of Brookfield East High School in Brookfield, Wis.; and Kimberly Winterbottom, principal of Marley Middle School in Glen Burnie, Md.
The NASSP will name the winner Oct. 20.
The three finalists’ stories show that school leaders don’t have to make a binary choice between promoting academic success and supporting children’s social and emotional development, said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe.
“It’s absolutely important that those two things are connected and they work hand-in-hand together,” he said. “It’s not one or the other. Test scores are an important measure and so is well-being.”
Bevel, who has been in her role since 2021, sought to make her Title I school more welcoming by organizing students into smaller learning communities, giving teachers strategies to individualize lessons, and hold outreach events like a “parent prom.”
An increase in 6th-grade student test scores is attributed to Bevel’s comprehensive literacy strategy, which incorporates the skills across subject areas.
Farley, who has been in his current role since 2013, has received national recognition for his efforts to close the achievement gap at Brookfield East High School, which has been named Wisconsin’s top public high school for four consecutive years. NASSP noted Farley’s focus on whole-child strategies. His school was the first in the state to launch a “Hope Squad,” through which student leaders promote wellness and teach students to recognize and respond to peers’ mental health concerns.
Farley has also encouraged broad participation in advanced coursework: 99 percent of the high school’s 2022 graduates took a college credit-bearing course.
Winterbottom, in her 9th year leading Marley Middle School, helped improved academics through systemic changes and support teachers’ professional growth.
At the beginning of her tenure, Marley was the lowest ranked middle school in the county. According to the 2022-23 state state tests, students now outperform 16 of the county’s 19 middle schools in math. Reading scores have also increased significantly under Winterbottom’s leadership, and discipline referral rates have dropped to some of the lowest in the county, the NASSP noted.
The finalists were selected from a pool of state-level middle school and high school principals of the year.
As the nation’s schools face the dual challenge of a divisive political moment and the hard work of academic recovery, it’s important to highlight the daily work of school leaders, who “are giving whatever it is they’ve got in the tank” to support students and their families, Nozoe said.