What better way to celebrate National Principals Month than NASSP naming Thomas J. Dodd of Colorado the 2017 National Principal of the Year! In a surprise ceremony at his school, Dodd was presented with this honor after 11 years of working as the principal at Lesher Middle School in Fort Collins, CO.
Attending the ceremony were state and local officials, students, teachers, and Dodd’s family. Secretary of Education John King surprised Dodd with a phone call to congratulate him during the ceremony as well.
Dodd’s Lesher Middle School journey began 11 years ago. He found that the school’s International Baccalaureate in the Middle Years Program (IBMYP) had led to the creation of a de facto remedial track among non-IBMYP students. With a focus on schoolwide equity, Dodd launched a vision of success for each student in the school and expanded the competency-based report cards to the entire student body. His vision is symbolized by an anchor pin that each student and teacher wears accompanied by the motto “Anchor Down” to highlight the importance of students feeling grounded in the school.
Since becoming principal at Lesher Middle school, Dodd has personalized the school’s environment by instituting student and staff recognition and promoting student participation in academic contests. He has also increased enrollment from 500 to 770 students, the maximum capacity for the school. Dodd was able to take a school that was on the verge of closure to maintaining a wait list every year.
When asked what students at Lesher Middle School appreciate about Dodd, one student wrote, “Dr. Dodd has created a school with some of the best teachers, and works closely with the staff to ensure smooth sailing through even the roughest academic waters.” The student went on to say, “He is also very excited and encouraging to all students… Even though he is the head of a nationally acclaimed school, he is still down to earth.”
The search for the 2017 National Principal of the Year started in early 2016 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state winners, a panel of judges selected three finalists. A separate panel then interviewed and rigorously reviewed the finalists’ applications to select the national winner. As the National Principal of the Year, Dodd will represent the principalship in high-level education policy discussions and will be enrolled in the highly regarded McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders.