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Principal of the Year

Each year an outstanding public school principal earns distinction as the Tennessee Department of Education Principal of the Year (POY).  This honor is reserved for school leaders
who demonstrate superior abilities in:

  • managing and motivating students and faculties;
  • evoking high standards;
  • demonstrating a commitment to excellence;
  • implementing innovative programs; and
  • having a track record of exceptional gains in student learning.

The winner is honored annually at the Principal and Supervisor of the Year Banquet.

2020-21 Principal of the Year

2020 Principal of the Year

The 2020-21 Tennessee Principal of the Year is Dr. Leneda Laing of Cleveland City Schools.

As a first-generation college graduate, Dr. Leneda Laing developed a passion for the education profession at an early age. Her parents instilled a love of school and a desire to be the best that she could be. After her first day of first grade, she declared to her parents that she was going to become a teacher. She followed her high school assistant principal’s advice which was to get a teaching degree in mathematics because she would always be employable. She began her teaching career in the elementary school she attended and for over twenty years taught middle school mathematics. Her love of teaching mathematics resulted in her being awarded the Presidential Award for Teaching Mathematics. Further evidence of her passion for mathematics was her willingness to undergo the rigorous application procedure for national board certification. In 2006, Dr. Laing became a nationally board-certified teacher in the area of early adolescent mathematics. After two decades of teaching math, she transitioned into administration as a mathematics coordinator at Cleveland Middle School. During this time Dr. Laing developed a desire for training teachers and school leadership. An outgrowth of this stage of her career led to an interest in full school leadership resulting in her being both an assistant principal and principal at Cleveland Middle School. Dr. Laing’s love for education has guided her many career aspirations, however the most significant accomplishment in her varied career is when she sees a student’s excitement after reaching an educational milestone.

Benefits of Participating in the Tennessee Prinicipal of the Year Program

What are the benefits to principals?

By participating in the Tennessee Principal of the Year program, school leaders have the opportunity to:

·         be celebrated and honored for making exceptional gains with students,

·         expand knowledge of education policy and participate in local, state, and national policy discussions,

·         serve on state-level committees and consult on department initiatives,

·         act as a spokesperson and advocate for the education profession, and

·         become inducted into an amazing network of statewide awardees, and become connected to an impactful, ongoing body of work that engages you as a professional long after an awardee’s service year.

What are the benefits to schools and districts?

By participating in the Tennessee Principal of the Year program, districts and schools have the opportunity to:

·         attract local, state, and national attention,

·         allow the district’s honorees to serve as a voice for the education profession, thus elevating the district and attracting educators and leaders to the district, and

·         celebrate excellence in education by honoring hard working, successful school leaders.

What does the Tennessee Principal of the Year do?

·         Respond to and fulfill Tennessee Principal of the Year speaking requests, presentations, etc.

·         Share their expertise with the department.

·         Identify and advocate for educational issues.

Eligibility & Selection Process

A Principal of the Year Nominee must:

  • have a minimum of three (3) years of professional experience in public schools.;
  • have a minimum of one (1) year of experience as a principal; and
  • at all levels of recognition, must be employed as a principal in a Tennessee public school system.

Directors of schools will nominate one principal from each district using the online Principal and Supervisor of the Year Nomination Form

The 2020-21 nomination deadline is Jan. 31, 2021.

Scoring

  • Beginning in April, a panel of independent reviewers with representatives from each CORE region convene to score written applications submitted by each nominee. Application scores are averaged to select nine finalists, one from each CORE region and the Shelby County-Municipals group.
    • Each finalist’s school must lie within the boundaries of the CORE area that he or she is chosen to represent.
  • Finalists will be notified of their status by July.  
  • In August, the nine finalists progress to the interview stage of the selection process. 
  • The Grand Division winners and the Tennessee Principal of the Year are selected by combining each nominee’s average application score and average interview score.  

Projected 2020-21 Timeline

Dates Process
By 11:59 p.m. CT 
Jan. 31
Directors of schools (or their designees) submit the nomination form for Principal of the Year (POY).
Feb. 1 Department sends nominees the link to the electronic Principal of the Year application.
March 14 Principal of the Year nominees submit part I application online.
April 14 Department sends region-level semi-finalists the link to the electronic Principal of the Year part II application.
By 11:59 p.m. CT on June 1 Principal of the Year region-level semi-finalists submit part II application online.
June A panel of independent reviewers with representatives from each CORE region selects one principal from each CORE region and the Shelby County-Municipals region to advance as a finalist to the interview process.
July/August

Announcement of the nine Principal of the Year finalists

Interviews held for the nine Principal of the Year finalists

Fall 2021 Supervisor of the Year and Principal of the Year recognition banquet in Nashville

Application Resources

  • Part I Application: This document contains all questions listed in the electronic application. Districts are encouraged to use this document as a foundation for their own district-level Principal of the Year applications. Applicants are encouraged to use this document to draft and revise application responses prior to submitting via the online form.
  • Part II Application: This document contains all questions listed in the electronic application. Applicants are encouraged to use this document to draft and revise application responses prior to submitting via the online form.
  • Application Guidance: This document contains tips and tricks for how to improve your Tennessee Principal of the Year application. While referencing this document will not guarantee a successful outcome in the selection process, this document is useful for refining your responses to ensure they align to the application prompts.

Past Recipients

Year Principal School School System
2020-21 Leneda Laing Cleveland Middle School Cleveland City Schools
2019-20 LeAndrea Ware The Howard School Hamilton County Schools
2018-19 Vicki Shipley Munford Middle School Tipton County Schools
2017-18 Robin Copp Ooltewah High School Hamilton County
2016-17 Docia Generette-Walker Middle College High School Shelby County Schools
2015-16 Peggy Greene Ridgeview Elementary School Washington County Schools
2014-15 Ronald Hughes Apison Elementary School Hamilton County Schools
2013-14 Martha Fisher Cascade Elementary School Bedford County Schools
2012-13 Jane Winter Minglewood Elementary Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
Year Principal School School System
2011-12 Rita White Riverwood Elementary Memphis City Schools
2010-11 Tim Setterlund Collierville High School Shelby County Schools
2009-10 Janice Womble Deery Eakin Primary School Bedford County Schools
2008-09 Warner Ross Bolivar Middle School Hardeman County Schools
2007-08 Scott Owens Rhea Elementary School Paris Special Schools
Margaret McKissick-Larry Avon Lenox School Memphis City Schools
2006-07 Catherine Battle Snowden School Memphis City Schools
2005-06 Rhonda Kennedy Hazelwood Elementary School Clarksville-Montgomery County
2004-05 Philip L. Kiper Bledsoe County Middle School Bledsoe County Schools
2003-04 Deborah Alexander Kingston Elementary School Roane County Schools
2002-03 Robbie Robinson McGowan Mooreland Heights Elementary School Knox County Schools
2001 Dr. Julie Williams Hunters Lane Comprehensive High School Metro/Davidson County Schools
R. Michael Landis West Middle School Tullahoma City Schools
Virginia McNeal Alton Elementary School Memphis City Schools
2000 Tommy Everette Karns High School Knox County Schools
Jerry McNabb Jasper Middle School Marion County Schools
Mickey Hatcher Unicoi Elementary School Unicoi County Schools
1999 David L. Daniel Loretto High School Lawrence County Schools
Donna C. Trevathan Warren County Middle School Warren County Schools
Julia Price Alpha Elementary School Hamblen County Schools
1998 James David Heath Brentwood High School Williamson County Schools
Tom L. Barnard New Providence Middle School Clarksville-Montgomery County
Sue Carmichael Bon DeCroft Elementary School White County Schools
1997 John W. Snider Dyer County High School Dyer County Schools
Elbert Milton Ross East Middle School Metro/Davidson County Schools
Peggy C. Willocks Harold McCormick Elementary School Elizabethton City Schools
1996 Dr. Martha Glover McNairy Central High School McNairy County Schools
James A. Sawyers DuPont Middle School Metro/Davidson County Schools
David Moore Delano Elementary School Memphis City Schools
1995 Vicki Dunaway Powell High School Knox County Schools
Carolyn R. McPherson John Sevier Middle School Kingsport City Schools
Kay Awalt Moore Elementary School Franklin Special School District
1994 Joe Yeager Page High School Williamson County Schools
Donald Allen Rogers Unicoi County Middle School Unicoi County Schools
Dr. Brenda T. Gulledge Highland Elementary School Greeneville City Schools
1993 Shirley Rose Ellis Hampton High School Carter County Schools
Dr. Samuel Humphreys University School Washington County Schools
Dr. Jim Luckey Idlewild Elementary School Memphis City Schools
1991 A. D. Hancock Hunters Lane High School Metro/Davidson County Schools
Thomas W. Hayes Robertsville Junior High School Oak Ridge City Schools
Ben K. Wilson Ingleside Elementary School Athens City Schools