OLYMPIA–March 4, 2009—Bremerton High
School Principal Aaron Leavell has been named Washington state’s
2009 High School Principal of the Year by the Association of Washington
School Principals (AWSP). Linda Jenkins, assistant superintendent of
Bremerton School District, and Bob Mc Mullen, director of high school
programs at AWSP, surprised Leavell with the news at a school staff
meeting this afternoon.
Leavell, currently in his fourth year as principal, believes school
culture is “the bedrock for a stronger academic
environment.” Driven by this belief, he has partnered with staff
to usher in positive change throughout Bremerton High. With the support
of administrators and parents, Leavell introduced a dress code for staff
and students; the school board has since adopted the code district-wide.
He also worked closely with community groups and police departments to
address the issue of gang activity and its impact on students. To build
school culture, Leavell helped staff implement Positive Behavior
Supports, a program promoting shared values, clear expectations for
learning and behavior, and a caring social climate.
Dr. Bette Hyde, superintendent of Bremerton School District, said
Leavell embodies the spirit of the award. “Aaron lives and
breathes high quality leadership and exemplifies what a strong
instructional leader should be,” she remarked.
“Aaron’s talent for building community clearly has made a
difference at Bremerton High School,” said McMullen. “As a
principal, he leads by example. His passion, vision and commitment help
students and staff believe in their ability to succeed.”
Leavell acknowledges the power of the partnerships he has forged over
the past four years. He explains, “I am proud to be the leader of
such a courageous group of students and educators, ones who have
embraced education reform, and are willing to take risks.”
Every decision he makes, says Leavell, “has students at the
center of it.” This includes Leavell’s decision to implement
a professional learning community (PLC) within Bremerton High School.
Under Leavell’s guidance, all instructional leaders in the school
actively engage in PLC activities, visiting each other’s
classrooms and meeting weekly to strengthen student achievement. The
school also has moved to standards-based grading and homework
Leavell’s dedication to student achievement touches young
people who otherwise may have given up on their education. He has
established several programs to provide individualized learning,
including a full-time online academy for students struggling with credit
recovery, a center for students who have children or hold jobs during
the school day, and a program for students with severe behavioral
problems. With Leavell at the helm, Bremerton High has doubled its
Advanced Placement offerings, opening AP courses to all students.
Prior to becoming principal of Bremerton High, Leavell served as the
administrator of Bremerton’s Freshman Academy. According to
Jenkins, Leavell was a pivotal figure in the development and
implementation of the Academy, which created a smaller, more focused
environment for freshmen. With the Academy program in place, the
district reduced credit deficiency by half in the first year and reduced
discipline rates by half the second year.
Leavell was selected as the state’s High School Principal of
the Year from 11 regional finalists by a panel of principals who serve
on AWSP’s high school board. Candidates, both at the state and
national level, are evaluated based on the following criteria:
Collaborative Leadership: Involves teachers, staff
members, parents, students and the community in achieving the goals of
the school; provides direction or focus to achieve the school’s
goals as a member of the school’s leadership team; models
continuous professional growth; balances management tasks with
instructional leadership tasks.
Personalization: Establishes and maintains a
positive school climate that reflects high student and staff morale;
interacts professionally and tactfully with others; creates structures
that enable teachers to develop an appreciation for each student’s
abilities; acknowledges achievement or accomplishments of students and
teachers; models values, beliefs and attitudes that inspire others to
higher levels of performance; develops and maintains dialogue with
representatives of diverse community groups.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment: Improves
teaching and learning by implementing programs and improvement efforts;
observes, supervises and evaluates teachers and instructional programs
to maximize the learning opportunities for every student; analyzes
multiple sources of data to improve instructional practices and
outcomes; demonstrates knowledge of learning, teaching, research and
programs that maximize student performance.
Leavell’s nomination puts him in the running for the 2009
National High School Principal of the Year, a program sponsored by
MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Launched in 1993, the MetLife/NASSP Principal of the Year program
annually recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals.
It has become a nationally known vehicle for honoring secondary school
principals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, commitment to
students and staff, service to their communities and contributions to
the overall profession of educational leadership.
Each state, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense
Education Activity and the Department of State’s Overseas Schools
send one high school and one middle level principal to the national
level to compete for the 2009 MetLife/NASSP National Principals of the
Year award. From the state winners, six finalists (three middle level,
three high school) are selected and eligible for the award. For more
information on the National MetLife/NASSP Principal of the Year program,
Leavell will be honored with the elementary and middle school
principals of the year at AWSP’s 2009 Principals’ Conference
Oct. 18–20 in Yakima. He also will travel to Washington, D.C., to
represent Washington state at an awards banquet hosted by NASSP and
About the Association of Washington School Principals
The Association of Washington School Principals is a
professional association serving principals, assistant principals and
principals in training. Formed in 1972, the Association now includes
more than 3,400 members from public and private elementary, middle and
high schools statewide. It is governed by a board of practicing
principals composed of members drawn from three grade-specific boards
representing the elementary, middle and high school levels. The mission
of AWSP is to support principals and assistant principals and the
principalship in the education of all students. For more information on
the Association, visit the AWSP Web site at www.awsp.org.
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