Three Top School Leaders Selected as National Principal of the Year Finalists

Finalists to be honored at Capitol Hill event; winner announced during National Principals Month

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has named three exceptional school leaders from across the United States as finalists for 2016 NASSP National Principal of the Year. The finalists will be honored during a September awards breakfast to be attended by dignitaries and policymakers, including Sen. Al Franken (D-MN; tentative).

When Fry arrived at Plymouth South High School 10 years ago, behavioral issues were prevalent, the school’s accreditation was at risk, the building was overcrowded by approximately 400 students, and the failure/dropout rate was a major concern. Fry began the school’s transformation by focusing on the development of increased staff buy-in. By empowering teachers and encouraging consistency, inappropriate student behaviors decreased and focusing on academics became a priority. Making college and career readiness a key goal, she also created an incentive program to encourage students to take AP classes—which resulted in the program’s significant growth and Plymouth being selected as an AP Honor Roll district in 2014. Before Fry arrived, the school was on warning status by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. But last year, the association gave Plymouth a glowing review, listing the “empowerment of staff to lead” as a commendation in their report.

In a diverse school where language issues, cultural variances, and prevalent poverty present a variety of meaningful challenges, Hoehner has created a culture of high expectations. Lexington students are aligned with at least one adult advocate who monitors their daily academic, athletic, and social wellbeing. Thanks to the warm learning environment created under Hoehner’s leadership, students feel valued and honor the school’s values of respect, responsibility, honesty, and compassion. Over the past five years, he has helped overhaul the curriculum to include honors, regular, and co-taught classes with dedicated special education and English language learner support. The school’s Destination Graduation program also focuses on the academic, social, and behavioral needs of every student—leading to a 10 percent increase in the graduation rate in just three years.

Under Tenreiro’s leadership, Cumberland High School has seen increases in academic achievement, graduation rates, and the number of students gaining admission to some of the best colleges and universities in the country. He worked with school leaders, school committee members, and teachers to establish schoolwide standards aligned to each content area to focus curriculum on transferable skills to ensure success after graduation. As a result, Cumberland has doubled its Advanced Placement class offerings and expanded their STEM courses to include pre-engineering, robotics, and a biotechnology pathway. Tenreiro also invested in the school’s current standards-based system, which has led to more uniform expectations for students, clearer feedback to students, and a focus on reporting what has been learned—not just what students have done. Working with a dedicated faculty and staff, Tenreiro has built a safe, positive, respectful, and supportive culture that fosters student responsibility for learning and results in shared ownership, pride, and high expectations for all.

“NASSP is delighted to recognize such accomplished principals who have dedicated extraordinary effort to advance student learning,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Schools cannot succeed without great leaders committed to the success of each student, and our 2016 finalists clearly model the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that constitute great leadership.”

The three finalists will be recognized during the 2015 NASSP Principals Institute, which convenes all principals of the year from the 50 states in Washington, D.C., September 15-18 for a series of professional development activities and meetings with their members of Congress. The finalists will formally receive their awards during a September 17 Capitol Hill breakfast, at which Sen. Franken will also receive the NASSP Congressional Champion Award.

The NASSP National Principal of the Year Award is given annually to one principal who exemplifies the characteristics research has shown to be most effective in school leadership. The search for the national principal of the year began in early 2015 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three finalists. The finalists will be interviewed by a separate panel of judges on September 15 and the 2016 national winner will be announced during National Principals Month in October.



The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high-quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.