2006 National Distinguished Principals

NDPPhillys B. Hill
Reeces Creek Elementary School
Killeen Independent School District
Killeen, Texas

Phillys Hill lives by the motto, “No excuses.” The daughter of parents who never graduated from high school, she explains, “When children leave our schools, society does not accept excuses for a lack of performance.” Although most of the 725 Pre-K-5 students served by Reeces Creek Elementary School live in subsidized housing, and 65 percent qualify for free or discounted meals at school, Hill and her staff ensure high achievement levels by offering remedial services, home visits, and tutoring to help students overcome learning challenges. As a result, test scores in math, reading, and writing have earned state recognition. As principal since 1994 of Reeces Creek, an urban school located in a military community, Hill has led the school to distinction as both a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and a Texas School of Excellence. It also has received a national award for sustained academic excellence in mathematics as well as a state award for parental involvement. Partnerships with a military unit and a local Rotary club have provided resources as well as volunteer reading mentors. Of all her honors, Hill treasures her recognition as the Killeen Classroom Teachers Administrator of the Year as a career highlight. She earned a B.A. and an M.Ed. from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Texas.

NDPSusan B. Huff
Westside Elementary School
Nebo School District
Springville, Utah

On her first day as principal of Westside Elementary School in 1999, Susan Huff recalls a parent asking why no teacher ever transferred there. At the time, Westside had a reputation as the lowest performing school in the district; but under Huff’s leadership the “toxic, negative” culture of the suburban Pre-K-5 school has been transformed into a positive one. Today, Westside is a school where 703 students are making progress and achieving at increasingly higher levels. “Great teachers want to join our team and parents want their children to come here and learn,” says Huff. She achieved this transformation by promoting collaboration among teachers and by focusing strongly on student learning and academic results. Under her direction, the staff has become a professional learning community in which there is mutual trust and respect, and teachers share effective instructional practices with each other. “Literacy is my passion,” she says in explaining the creation of an in-depth reading program that has received statewide recognition and was named an exemplary program by the International Reading Association in 2006. Thanks to her efforts, the school has an extensive, grade-leveled school library as well as a collection of take-home books. Huff earned B.S., M.Ed., and Ed.D. degrees from Brigham Young University in Utah.

NDPTimothy P. Crowley
Barre Town Middle and Elementary School
Barre Supervisory Union
Barre, Vermont

To motivate his teachers to reflect on student learning and their own performance, Tim Crowley asks them, “When you read [test] results, what do the children’s ‘voices’ tell us about our work as a school?” In his seven years as principal at rural Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, where he oversees 962 fifth- through eighth-grade students, Crowley credits his success to a “laser-like focus” on the use of student assessment data to guide instruction and a new model for teacher evaluations that is designed to promote professional growth by providing evidence-based descriptions of excellent instruction. He also implemented a staff development program based on assessments of children’s learning needs and state standards. Crowley defies conventional retention policy by giving retained eighth graders an option to move on to high school at midyear if they have improved their grades sufficiently. The school boasts a model community service program that has been recognized by three Vermont governors and is highlighted by a May presentation and celebration that has become a major community event. Crowley prepared for his position by serving the school as an assistant principal for six years. He received his B.S. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his M.A. from Castleton State College in Vermont.

NDPBarbara A. Bourne
Mary Hogan Elementary School
Addison Central Supervisory Union
Middlebury, Vermont

“The credibility I have established as a human being and as a school principal is the most significant and far-reaching accomplishment of my administrative career,” says Bonnie Bourne of her 19 years at Mary Hogan Elementary School. A teacher for 16 years before becoming a principal, she prizes the trust she has earned with her faculty, staff, and community members. It is that confidence that has enabled Bourne not only to serve the 421 students of her rural K-6 schools, but to be “a passionate advocate for all children, but most especially for those children who have no one to advocate for them.” It is an advocacy reflected in the establishment of before- and after-school tutoring for at-risk children and her volunteer activity as a coach for Vermont’s National Special Olympics team. Bourne conducts “grand rounds” with teachers every four to six weeks, at which time they review current academic and behavioral data for each student and “shake the school” to find additional instructional time and resources if needed. The strong relationships she maintains with parents and community members have resulted in stable school funding, including a $5 million school renovation project. Bourne has a B.S. from the College of Saint Joseph the Provider in Vermont, and an M.A. from Castleton State College in Vermont.

NDPSusan E. Bridges
A.G. Richardson Elementary School
Culpeper County Public Schools
Culpeper, Virginia

“I am proud of the friendly and welcoming climate of our school,” says Sue Bridges. As principal since 2001 of A.G. Richardson Elementary School, Bridges has made her suburban K-5 school a warm and inviting place by having colorful murals painted on walls, installing comfortable seating in the lobby and hallways, and having PTO-sponsored monthly family nights. As evidence of her instructional leadership, Richardson Elementary has met its Adequate Yearly Progress goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the past three years. Two years ago, Bridges successfully led her staff through the rigorous accrediting process of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, in which the strengths and weaknesses of the school were analyzed and a school improvement plan established. The plan focuses on the collaborative work of teachers in vertical K-5 teams identifying areas of strength and weakness, and designing strategies for growth. Weekly special days for each grade level have all of the school’s resource teachers teaming with the grade-level teachers on a particular topic. Each week, Bridges also invites 30 of the school’s 700 students, chosen for acts of good citizenship, to have lunch with her. She received her B.A. from Wake Forest University in North Carolina and her M.Ed. from George Mason University in Virginia.

NDPMarion E. Evenson
Nooksack Elementary School
Nooksack Valley School District
Everson, Washington

A highlight of Marion Evenson’s 12 years as principal at Nooksack Elementary School was its 2005 selection as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Her rural K-5 school, which serves 274 students, of whom 40 percent are economically disadvantaged, was honored for having achieved Dramatically Improved Student Performance. A year earlier, Nooksack Elementary was singled out in a study of schools with similar poverty rates that had met state academic standards. The study found that Nooksack Elementary succeeded by using student performance data to guide instruction and assessments, and taking responsibility for student learning. Evenson sets high expectations for her students, which she translates as “No excuses—you can succeed even though you’ve never done anything this hard before.” With a background of 18 years as a classroom and special education teacher, she takes pride in having introduced a number of remedial programs and strategies that have resulted in significant increases in the numbers of students meeting state standards in reading, math, and science. “Everyone at our school, including office staff, custodians, and teaching staff, must be committed to mentoring and supporting the academic and social development of all students,” she says. Evenson has a B.S. from Bemidji State University in Minnesota and an M.S. from the University of Montana.