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TDOE Announces 2020-21 Tennessee Principal of the Year

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | 06:09pm


Cleveland City Middle School Principal Receives Top Statewide Educator Honor

NASHVILLE, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced Leneda Laing of Cleveland Middle School is the 2020-21 Tennessee Principal of the Year.  

Out of nine finalists representing Tennessee’s eight CORE regions, as well as the Shelby County-Municipals area, Laing was selected as the 2020-21 Tennessee Principal of the Year. Laing served as a classroom teacher, math coordinator and assistant principal before becoming principal of Cleveland Middle School. She was also awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics. 

“Great schools have great school leaders, and we are so thrilled to honor Principal of the Year Leneda Laing for her leadership on behalf of students and educators. She is a great model for strong school leadership in Tennessee,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Despite the challenges of 2020, school leaders across the state are serving and leading their communities, and the state is proud to recognize all our Principal of the Year finalists for their hard work and dedication.” 

Due to the coronavirus and taking necessary safety precautions, the announcement took place virtually, including congratulatory messages from Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Schwinn, and legislators representing areas for various finalists—Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senator Paul Rose, Representative Johnny Garrett, Representative Rusty Grills, Representative Debra Moody, Representative Lowell Russell.  

Of the nine Principal of the Year finalists, three have been selected to represent the East, Middle, and West Grand Divisions of the state. The East Tennessee Grand Division Principal of the Year is Dr. Leneda Laing, Cleveland Middle, Cleveland City Schools. The Middle Tennessee Grand Division Principal of the Year Winner is John (Eric) Bowman, T.W. Hunter Middle, Sumner County Schools. The West Tennessee Grand Division Principal of the Year Winner is Joretha Lockhart, Lakeland Elementary, Lakeland Municipal Schools. 

"It has been a great honor to serve my state and students in a new way over the last year,” said 2019-20 Tennessee Principal of the Year, Dr. LeAndrea Ware. “I am grateful to the department for this opportunity and excited for Principal Leneda Laing to step into this role. Right now, perhaps more than ever, strong school leadership is so important, and I am glad I am glad we make it a priority to recognize our incredible principals.” 

The Tennessee Principal of the Year award is awarded annually to a school leader for outstanding service in education and exceptional leadership that drives overall improvements in his or her school. To qualify, candidates must have a minimum of three years' experience as a principal and a minimum of five years' experience in public schools. In addition, all nominees must have a proven track record of exceptional gains in student learning.   

Traditionally, this announcement is made at a banquet, which has been postponed due to coronavirus safety concerns.  

For information regarding the nine finalists, click here. To learn more about the Tennessee Principal of the Year award, click here.   

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact