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McDonald named finalist in national assistant principal race

By Matt Montgomery

Piedmont High School Assistant Principal Clay McDonald was recently named a finalist for the nation’s top assistant principal prize.

Clay McDonald, Piedmont High School, In his eight years as assistant principal at Piedmont High School, McDonald has implemented a plethora of new initiatives, all aimed at developing a strong and positive learning environment. He wrote and obtained a grant to be part of the High Schools that Work (HSTW) initiative and developed focus groups to develop new ideas for the school while enabling students and teachers to achieve at a higher level. Every teacher is part of a focus group, allowing all faculty members to have their voices heard when it comes to school decisions.

After a school survey was completed that indicated many students do no reading outside of the classroom, McDonald led the development of a reading program to increase reading and literacy. When he saw that ACT scores were staying stagnant or growing very slowly, McDonald offered a professional development session to help teachers understand the ACT, started an ACT Day at the school to help students, and created an ACT prep course, which has seen an increase in enrollment every year.

In an attempt to decrease the number of students failing classes, McDonald developed a school-wide policy where students have until the end of the semester to turn in uncompleted assignments for up to 60 percent of the final grade before it turns into a zero. This initiative has decreased the failing list and led to more students passing courses.

McDonald also helped create an advisor-advisory program, where teachers are assigned to a small group of about 15 students who they can get to know personally. In these groups, teachers give information about college and careers,graduation requirements, and school issues such as bullying. The program helps to develop positive relationships between teachers and students.

Piedmont Schools Superintenedent James White said the district is very proud of Mr. McDonald.
“We are very proud of Mr. McDonald and this terrific accomplishment and we certainly congratulate him,” White said. “This recognition is a positive reflection on Piedmont High School and our district as a whole.”

“Our school received a rating of “A” on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s A-F Report Card,” said Piedmont High School Principal Layne Jones. “Mr. McDonald has been instrumental in this
grade as he has helped in the different areas that are vital to this grade [including] graduation rate, EOI performance, Advanced Placement coursework, and student growth.”

A national winner will be selected from these finalists in February and all state and national honorees will be recognized at an April black-tie gala in Washington, DC.

“Assistant principals play a critical role in our nation’s schools and we are honored to recognize these three outstanding school leaders for their commitment to that role,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP executive director. “These educators model all that can be accomplished when school leaders are dedicated to raising student achievement and improving their schools.” will be recognized at an April black-tie gala in Washington, DC.

NASSP and school furniture manufacturer Virco Inc. annually honor a winner from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Selection criteria are built around collaborative leadership; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and school personalization—the core areas of the NASSP Breaking Ranks Framework for school improvement. The three finalists were selected from the pool of state winners, and one national winner will be identified and announced during the NASSP conference, Ignite 2014, which will be held February 6-8 in Dallas, TX. Each finalist will receive $1,500 and the national winner will be awarded an additional $3,500, which can be used for personal professional development or for a school improvement project.

All state winners will be honored at a three-day event in Washington, DC in April. Event highlights include a national speaker, visits to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators, and networking with some of the best assistant principals across the nation. The event culminates with a black-tie gala to recognize the achievements of each of the state honorees, the national finalists, and the national winner.
The other two finalists for the assistant principal award are Deborah Miller, Park Hill High School, Kansas City, MO and Courtney Voshell, Dover, Del. High School.

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