Wesley Taylor, principal of Lowndes High School in Valdosta is finding out about now that he has been named the 2011 MetLife/National Association of Secondary School Principals National High School Principal of the Year in a ceremony that includes Speaker of the House David Ralston and School Superintendent Brad Bryant.
“I am honored to congratulate Wes Taylor as the 2011 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the year. Wes’ extensive career of furthering the education of Georgia’s children and mentoring young teachers has set an example for others both here in Georgia and across the nation,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue. “His dedication to enhancing the learning experience at Lowndes High School shows not only in their increasing graduation rates or AP participation; but in the strong relationship building and individual focus that truly helps students thrive.”
Here is the official release:
It’s hard to argue with Taylor’s success since becoming principal at Lowndes in 2003. The school has seen a 13 percent increase in graduation, and across-the-board double-digit increases in pass rates–some increases as large as 38 percent — on the Georgia High School Graduation Tests for various subgroups. Participation in Advanced Placement classes has nearly tripled under Taylor’s watch to 446 students in 2009, with similar increases in the number of students receiving a score of 3 or higher on AP tests. The improvements can be attributed largely to Taylor’s fostering a culture of collaboration among teachers and a college-going culture among students.
“Wes Taylor is the epitome of a team builder,” said Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Steven Smith. “Wes empowers others to assist him in the leadership of Lowndes High School. He sets high expectations for himself and he motivates those around him to aspire to the same lofty expectations. Wes shuns the spotlight and focuses the attention on his staff and students for their accomplishments.”
Taylor promotes a philosophy that all students “should fit into some niche” and that every student has the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with an adult, Smith continued. This has resulted in the creation of a nurturing environment that seeks to bring out the best in each individual student and staff member.
Taylor strives to make his large school of nearly 3,000 students feel small so every student feels recognized and respected. He provides each teacher a visual reminder of the importance of considering the needs of every student: a brick with the words inscribed, “Just another brick in the wall?” Teachers keep the brick on their desks and they report that it’s a powerful symbol that reminds them that, although thousands of students enter the school doors each day, each is an individual with particular strengths, needs, and areas for improvement.
“Personalization of the school environment is a cornerstone of NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement,” said NASSP Executive Director Gerald N. Tirozzi. “Under Wes’s leadership, Lowndes has become a model of such personalization–especially impressive given the size of the school. We’re proud to honor Wes as the new representative of and ambassador for the high school principalship.”
“We applaud Wes Taylor for his innovative methods to motivate teachers, challenge students and create a collaborative learning environment,” said Thomas G. Hogan, Jr., senior vice president and head of MetLife Resources. “His efforts are helping students to realize their potential and are creating a brighter future for the community.”
Taylor will be honored during an awards banquet on October 1 in Washington, D.C., to kick off National Principals Month. The national principal of the year search began in early 2010 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. A national middle level winner and a national high school winner were then selected. The middle level winner will be announced in a few weeks.
Taylor is the latest in a series of exceptional Georgia school leaders to be named national principal of the year. Previous winners include Sheila Kahrs, Haymon-Morris Middle School in Winder (2010); Mark Wilson, Morgan County High School in Madison (2009); and Molly Howard, Jefferson County High School in Louisville (2008).
The six finalists each receive a $1,500 grant. The two national award winners receive an additional grant of $3,500. Grants must be used in the school to improve learning (e.g. a special school project or professional development).
NASSP and MetLife are strongly committed to supporting the visions of unsung school leaders. Each year the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year program focuses attention on the outstanding work principals do in middle level and high schools across the country. These individuals are recognized for their accomplishments as high-achieving principals, all the while making a daily investment in our children’s future. For more information about the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year program and winners, please visit www.principals.org/poy.