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National Distinguished Principals 2021, Secondary Schools

By National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Distinguished Principals 2021, Secondary Schools

Left to right: Amy Greene, American Community School of Abu Dhabi, Jeff Farrington, International School of Kuala Lumpur, and Kate McKenna, International School Nido de Aguilas

Amy Greene of the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, Jeff Farrington of the International School of Kuala Lumpur, and Kate McKenna of the International School Nido de Aguilas were selected as the three International School educators for the 2021 National Distinguished Principals Award for Secondary Schools. The U.S.-based National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) recognizes outstanding principals that have been selected from the international schools that are assisted by the Office of Overseas Schools of the United States Department of State. This year, the three-day institute to honor the recipients, traditionally held in Washington D.C., will be held virtually.

According to the NASSP, “The principal of the year is a model of effective leadership whose knowledge, skills, and commitment advances each student toward their full potential. The research is clear that leadership is one of the most important school-based factors in student achievement, and NASSP is proud to highlight the incredible work that these principals are doing to build the future.”

The following recipient statements were retrieved from the NASSP Recognition Website:

Amy Greene

We ensure our work is aligned with our school’s vision and mission and remain knowledgeable about students’ ever-changing needs. As a result, we have created systems to ensure we are informed and responsive practitioners. A recent example is a shift of roles and responsibilities within our counseling team. While the transition from middle level to high school represents an important milestone, it can also be a time of disorientation and disconnection for some. After watching our grade 9 students approach this transition with varying degrees of success, we restructured the Counseling Team to create a dedicated grade 8/9 counselor who offers targeted support to students, teachers, and families. This position allows us to better identify the needs of our youngest students and in some cases, our most vulnerable. After the first year of this position, we introduced a comprehensive advisory program that “rolls up” with students each year.

Jeff Farrington

With a philosophy rooted in the needs of each student, my role is to ensure a focus on student development and achievement, implementing innovative strategies that maximize the achievements of each learner. The most transformational school initiative of my career has been the move to standards-based assessment. As a school community that values learning, standards-based assessment means that our system prioritizes growth, student confidence, and accuracy. Our high school now uses a seven-point grading scale and reporting domains with clearly defined performance descriptors for each level. Teachers now align feedback mechanisms to accurately reflect learning progress, which in turn fuels optimism and motivation in students and fosters confidence in their ability to succeed. We removed averaging scores, relying on more accurate professional judgment from the teacher based on the most recent and relevant learning evidence. Our standards-based assessment practices are now focused on learning, not on grading.

Kate McKenna

In my first year as high school principal, we examined our grade 9 program as a way of evaluating freshman success and transition. We met with teachers and counselors, and together we brainstormed all the things that ninth graders could be exploring to promote high school success. Ultimately, we designed a yearlong class—The First Year Seminar—that all ninth graders now take. Topics explored are personal and global health, study skills, mindfulness, design, and technology. We use certain curricular standards from Shape Health, ISTE, and .B (dot-be) from the Mindfulness in School Project. We also teach all ninth-grade students design thinking frameworks that center upon human-centered design processes. These design thinking models can then be applied to other courses in their high school experience. Students work collaboratively and approach topics with creativity; ultimately, they make authentic connections to their lives and seek to positively shape and impact our community.

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