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Press Release – August 21, 2012
Smokey Road’s Laurie Barron named National Middle Level Principal of the Year
Barron is the fifth principal from Georgia to earn national title since 2008
Dr. Laurie Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan, GA, has been named the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.
The award was announced today at a school assembly attended by students, teachers, district staff members, National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife Foundation officials, and representatives from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s office and the Georgia Department of Education.
Barron, the fifth school leader from Georgia to receive recognition as national principal of the year since 2008, joins the ranks of top Georgia principals including Wesley Taylor, Sheila Kahrs, Mark Wilson, and Molly Howard. She will be honored during a black-tie gala on September 21 in Washington, DC, to kick off National Principals Month.
The surprise announcement was made at a ‘Wildcat Kick-off’ school pep rally, held in Smokey Road Middle school’s gymnasium.
Superintendent Steve Barker, School Board Chairman Sue Brown and fellow board members, school system and community members were on-hand at the rally to honor Barron as a finalist for the national award, in advance of any final decision about the honor.
Superintendent Barker praised the Smokey Road principal, and her staff and students, for the nomination. He then told the assembly that there was another reason that he and others were at the rally, and made the surprise announcement that she was officially the nation’s top middle school principal.
Smokey’ Road students entered the gym bearing a banner and flowers, as the several state and national dignitaries entered the Wildcat’s gym to present her officially with the national honor.
“How many of you think you have the best principal in the country?” said Richard Brown, NASSP board member, asking the question of the hundreds of students, teachers, school council and community members who had come for the pep rally. “How many of you think you have the best teachers and staff in the country?”
“Laurie, your successful tenure at Smokey Road Middle school is the foundation of your recognition to represent middle level principals across America,” Brown said, presenting her with a crystal trophy recognizing her national award.
Barron committed herself to doing the best she could to represent her school, her county and state, and the nation’s middle school principals “and to represent as best I can what’s right in public schools and how we can help students achieve… There is a lot going on in education that should be celebrated. I will work as hard as I can to live up to this honor,” she said.
Barron thanked past and present Smokey Road staff, students and parents who attended the event. “It was so touching to see my colleagues come and attend – Aaron Corley, Sean Dye, Steve Allen, Blake Bass and Steve Barker,” said Barron. “I am so proud of our students, so proud of the staff here… and it was so wonderful to have my family here with me today.”
“Laurie, how proud we are of your accomplishments and that you are part of the Coweta County School System family,” said Coweta school board Chairman Sue Brown.
Brown noted Smokey Road’s many honors in the eight years that she has been principal of the school, and noted the high achievement of both her faculty and her students. “None of this is possible without a strong, energetic, forward-thinking leader who is willing to allow teachers to teach and supports their work when they want to try innovative ideas.”
A number of dignitaries spoke at the event, including Renisha Jackson, a Financial Services Representative from MetLif, Dr. Melton Callahan, Executive Director of the Georgia association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP), Sue Brown, Chairman of the Coweta County Board of Education, Steve Mader, Southtowne of Newnan and a Smokey Road School Council Member, Dr. Mike Buck, Chief Academic Officer of the Georgia Department of Education, Coweta County State Representative Lynn Smith, and Kristin Bernhard, Education Policy Advisor for Governor Nathan Deal’s Office.
Bernhard read a letter from Governor Deal: “I know you share my belief that education is the key to Georgia’s future. It is my goal to provide a world class education for our children, and it is through the commitment of professionals like you that this goal will be achieved. Our state and, more importantly, our children are stronger as a result of your outstanding contributions to education.”
“The Principal of the Year designation is not only an honor for you, but also a measure of tangible educational quality for the students of Smokey Road Middle School,” said Governor Deal. “Thank you for continuing to move education in Georgia forward, and congratulations again on your exceptional accomplishment.”
Many of the representatives remained at the school after the announcement, touring Smokey Road classrooms and meeting teachers and students during the school day. Many of Barron’s colleagues were at the school to witness the announcement.
“Working alongside Dr. Barron has been one of the highlights of my career,” said Aaron Corley, assistant principal at Welch Elementary School and Barron’s former AP at Smokey Road. “Her vision, drive, and unwavering commitment to excellence are both admirable and infectious.”
“Like any great leader, she believes in those around her and challenges them to grow beyond what they think is possible. She is a model school leader and I am a better person for having known and worked with her,” said Corley.
“I am extremely proud of Dr. Laurie Barron’s selection as the principal of the year. Her award is extremely well deserved,” said Dr. Marc Guy, Assistant Superintendent for the Coweta school system, and a former principal who chose Barron as his Assistant Principal, her first administrative position. “Dr. Barron has exhibited multiple exemplary leadership qualities typical of Coweta County School System administrators. Moreover, she has spent countless hours dedicated to improving student achievement, student growth and development, and overall student well being.”
“Her service and commitment to Smokey Road Middle School, our Coweta County School System, our community, and the state of Georgia are all very commendable,” said Guy.
Dr. Laurie Barron has served as the Principal of Smokey Road Middle school since 2004. A 17-year educator, Barron taught English at Newnan High School for six years before becoming an Assistant Principal at Arnall Middle School and moving to the principalship at Smokey Road. Barron earned her B.A. from the University of Georgia, her Masters in Administration and Supervision from the State University of West Georgia, and her Specialist and Doctorate degrees in Educational Leadership from the University of Sarasota.
Barron currently serves on the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education Partnership Council and is an active member of the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals and the Georgia and National Association of Secondary School Principals, and has recently served on the Governor’s Education Advisory Board for Principals. She has also received the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders Outstanding Middle Level Educator Award and the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals Exemplary Leadership Award. Barron is also a National Board Certified teacher and was Newnan High School Teacher of the Year in 1999 and NHS STAR Teacher 2000 and 2001. Barron lives in Newnan with her husband Daniel and their three daughters.
Barron was named the Georgia Middle School Principal of the Year by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP) in February of 2012. Also at that time, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) began its search for the 2013 national Principal of the Year from among the state principals of the year selected by the state associations.
MetLife and NASSP said their organizations are strongly committed to supporting the visions of exemplary school leaders. The finalists for national honors are recognized for their accomplishments as high-achieving principals who are making a daily investment in the nation's future.
“NASSP’s experience has taught us time and again that nothing is more challenging or essential to school improvement than changing the school’s culture,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “With genuine concern for her students’ welfare, Laurie Barron has established at Smokey Road Middle School a model climate of what the Breaking Ranks school improvement framework requires—a personalized environment where every student is known and feels valued.”
Today, shared leadership, data-driven decision making, and job-embedded professional development help teachers provide personalized lessons. Parents, business leaders, and other stakeholders play an active role in the success of Smokey Road. And most importantly, students receive extensive support through supplemental instruction, mentoring, behavior intervention, and recognition programs.
Although the turnaround process took several years and a commitment from the entire community, the transformation would not have been possible without Barron’s leadership. Since 2003, absenteeism has decreased 11% and students have raised state test scores in reading and math by more than 20%. The diverse middle school, which made AYP for the last six years, was named a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students living in poverty. It has also received distinction as a Georgia Title I Distinguished School for the past four years.
“We applaud Laurie Barron for her leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Smokey Road,” said Derrick Kelson, vice president, MetLife. “Her efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”
“It is important to recognize outstanding school leadership,” added Dennis White, vice president of Corporate Contributions for MetLife. “The MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program acknowledges the crucial role of principals as leaders and individuals who go above and beyond to make their schools the best they can be for students, teachers, and communities.”
The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 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 middle level and three high school finalists. The national middle level winner, Laurie Barron, and the national high school winner, to be named in September, were then selected.
The two national award winners will each receive a grant of $5,000. Grants must be used in the school to improve learning (e.g. a special school project or professional development).
NASSP and MetLife are strongly committed to supporting the visions of unsung school leaders. Each year the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year program focuses attention on the outstanding work principals do in middle level and high schools across the country.
For more information about the program and winners, please visit www.nassp.org/poy.
NASSP is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 45 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.
About MetLife Resources
MetLife Resources is a division of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a MetLife company. MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc., a leading global provider of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. For more information, please visit www.metlife.com/mlr.
Dr. Laurie Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School in Newnan has been named the 2013 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year. Barron, above left, was announced as the national winner at an August 21 pep rally at the school by Coweta Superintendent Steve Barker, center. At right, students Jay Jones, Jacob Bryant and Jake Quick hold up a banner announcing Barron’s national honor.
Coweta Schools Assistant Superintendent Marc Guy, left, congratulates Dr. Laurie Barron, of Smokey Road Middle School, for being named the 2013 National Middle Level Principal of the Year by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. At right are Coweta County Board of Education Chairman Sue Brown and Coweta Superintendent Steve Barker, who helped announce Barron’s honor at the school on August 21.
Coweta Schools Curriculum Director Karen Barker, left, and Northgate High School Principal Therese Reddekopp, right, congratulate Smokey Road Middle School’s Laurie Barron, center, for being named the nation’s top middle school principal, at a reception after Tuesday’s announcement. As the 2013 honoree, Barron will be honored during a black-tie gala on September 21 in Washington, DC, to kick off National Principals Month.
Coweta County Board of Education Chairman Sue Brown praises Smokey Road Middle School Principal Laurie Barron, during a surprise ceremony Tuesday morning naming Barron the 2013 MetLife/NASSP Middle School Principal of the Year. At left are Coweta Schools Associate Superintendent Jerry Davis, Barron, former Coweta Superintendent Blake Bass, and Coweta Superintendent Steve Barker. Each year the MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year program focuses attention on the outstanding work principals do in middle level and high schools across the country.