This just in:
Laurie Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan, GA, has been named the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.
The award was announced today at an assembly attended by students, teachers, district staff members, and representatives from the Georgia Department of Education and the governor’s office. Barron will be honored during a black-tie gala on Sept. 21 in Washington, DC, to kick off National Principals Month.
Barron, the fifth school leader from Georgia to receive recognition as national principal of the year since 2008, joins the ranks of top Georgia principals including Wesley Taylor, Sheila Kahrs, Mark Wilson, and Molly Howard. Earning her place among the elite, Barron was the leading force behind the turnaround of Smokey Road Middle School. When she took over in 2004, she was the fourth principal to run the school in five years. However, by demonstrating her commitment to the success of students and staff members, she was able to tackle the rampant discipline problems, high absenteeism, and low student achievement.
“NASSP’s experience has taught us time and again that nothing is more challenging or essential to school improvement than changing the school’s culture,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “With genuine concern for her students’ welfare, Laurie Barron has established at Smokey Road Middle School a model climate of what the Breaking Ranks school improvement framework requires—a personalized environment where every student is known and feels valued.”
Today, shared leadership, data-driven decision making, and job-embedded professional development help teachers provide personalized lessons. Parents, business leaders, and other stakeholders play an active role in the success of Smokey Road. And most importantly, students receive extensive support through supplemental instruction, mentoring, behavior intervention, and recognition programs.
Although the turnaround process took several years and a commitment from the entire community, the transformation would not have been possible without Barron’s leadership. Since 2003, absenteeism has decreased 11 percent and students have raised state test scores in reading and math by more than 20 percent. The diverse middle school, which made AYP for the last six years, was named a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students living in poverty. It has also received distinction as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for the past four years.
“We applaud Laurie Barron for her leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Smokey Road,” said Derrick Kelson, vice president, MetLife. “Her efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”
The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 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. The national middle level winner, Laurie Barron, and the national high school winner, to be named in September, were then selected.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog