We're Changing our Principal of the Year Process. Here's Why.

David Morrill
Oct 17, 2019


AWSP is redesigning our Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year program. Like with all the other changes in education, this is a necessary change for us as we strive to increase the visibility of the important role principals play in our P-16 system. The impact of highly effective principals matters, so let's share that impact with the world.

In the past, we selected a Principal of the Year (POY) for elementary, middle, and high schools, giving us three different "state" principals of the year. In addition to our three state POYs, we would have one or two Assistant Principals of the Year (APOY) (one elementary, one secondary). While most people around education (policymakers, legislators, reporters, etc) could all tell you the state Teacher of the Year, almost nobody could name one of our potential five winners.

That's just one reason we're changing the program. We'd love to explain all the reasons we’re changing our (A)POY, but it might be faster for you to read War and Peace. You think we’re kidding…

Here’s the short version for how we plant to recognize winners and a little about the reasoning.

  • We’ll have one state principal of the year. Just like the Teacher of the Year and the Superintendent of the Year, there’s a single winner. This eliminates a ton of confusion around who really is the state POY. It amplifies and elevates the title.
  • We’ll also have one state Assistant Principal of the Year. Same justification and reasoning.
  • As long as we have enough qualified nominees and applicants, we’ll have a regional (A)POY at every ESD (again, like the other programs for teachers and superintendents). So every year, each ESD should be represented by an AP of the year and a principal of the year.

By narrowing the number of state level winners, our winner will enjoy the same spotlight and state-level name recognition as  the teacher and superintendent of the year. Having three state-level winners waters down the award a little and creates confusion. At the same time, selecting a regional winner gives more people significant recognition and increases the voice and representation from each region of the state. Now there’s the matter of the national programs, which all have different timelines and deadlines.

Even though we will recognize fewer state-level winners, we will still send back the same number of principals and assistant principals to Washington, D.C. for recognition.

  • If our state level-winner is an NAESP member (National Association of Elementary School Principals), they will be our state’s representative for the National Distinguished Principal honor.
  • If the state-level winner is an NASSP member (National Association of Secondary School Principals), they will be our state’s representative and eligible to win the National Principal of the Year Award (like Trevor Greene did in 2012).
  • If the state-level winner is a member of NASSP, our judging panel will send the most deserving Regional/ESD Principal of the Year from the elementary level (NAESP member) as our state representative. Vice versa if the state-level winner is at the elementary level.
  • We’ll mirror the process for national recognition for the Assistant Principal of the Year award.

Still with us? Here’s one more quick recap.

We have tremendous principals and assistant principals in Washington state. This new award structure preserves our recognition at the national level, increases the presence and recognition at the regional level, and greatly reduces confusion and improves the visibility and voice of our winner at the state level. It might be a little messy at first, but we’re excited about the new process and all the of great byproducts it will bring.

  • Assistant Principal of the Year
  • Award
  • Principal of the Year
  • APOY
  • POY
  • AWSP

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