Every quarter, the NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center recognizes outstanding volunteer advocates who dedicate their time toward advancing the policy and civic priorities of school leaders, public education, and students across America. The Principal Advocate Champion is someone who has made a powerful impact on the direction of public education policy through their personal engagement with state and federal policymakers and their ability to organize grassroots support behind NASSP advocacy initiatives.
The NASSP Policy & Advocacy Center is proud to announce that Vicki Puckett has been named the first quarterly Principal Advocate Champion of 2019.
Among the many great school leaders, educators, and advocates in Washington state, Vicki Puckett rises to the top. She is the principal of Mercer Island High School in Mercer Island, WA, and has been in that role since 2012. She’s been an educator for the past 35 years, and in that time she’s received numerous accolades, including being named Educator of the Year in 2011 in the Northshore School District and a Distinguished Principal of the Year in the King County School Districts. Vicki also serves as the Washington state high school level state coordinator with NASSP, where she coordinates efforts to advocate with federal, state, and local lawmakers for the resources and support that public education desperately needs.
When it comes to being an advocate, there’s nothing more important to Vicki than ensuring that all students have equal opportunity to great public education. “I see a lot of disparities in education,” Vicki said in an interview, citing that many schools are critically underfunded compared to those in more affluent areas, “I’ve always been a champion for kids who don’t have all the resources of others, particularly students of color. I believe part of our job as principals and our mission as educators is to tell students’ stories to elected officials. We need to take a more active role, because legislators remember these stories when they go to make decisions about policy.”
She was also quick to point out that it’s equally important to have a strong grasp of what an elected official has previously worked on or championed when meeting with them and to thank them for positive initiatives they’ve supported.
Vicki walks the walk, spending much of her time outside of her demanding professional schedule meeting and advocating with lawmakers. During National Principals Month in October, she organized two shadowing visits with her federal and state lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and state Rep. Tana Senn, inviting them to Mercer Island High School to spend a day in the life of a principal and see what challenges public schools are facing today. The officials heard Vicki’s perspective during their visits, but they also heard directly from students. During Smith’s visit, Vicki arranged for the congressman to meet directly with classrooms and have students ask prepared questions. She worked with them in advance to formulate those questions, challenging the students to think critically about what federal policy issues are having the greatest impact on their education and their future.
“I believe in letting students tell their own stories,” Vicki said, “When I have elected officials in my school, I want the students to be the ones talking about issues that matter to them. I’ve found that has a stronger, lasting impression on lawmakers. It also makes officials more likely to accept an invitation to come to my school when they know they’ll have an opportunity to speak in front of kids.”
In addition to building strong individual relationships with her lawmakers and their staff, Vicki has also played a leading role with the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) in developing multi-organizational coalitions of education leaders in her state. Notably, an AWSP committee she serves on recently collaborated with the Washington Association of School Administrators to compare the legislative platforms of the two organizations. Through that collaboration, they identified a set of common goals that included funding for key state education programs and additional support for social and emotional learning. From there, they developed a joint platform to unify behind and advocate toward. By facilitating communication between the organizations, Vicki and the AWSP team helped ensure that Washington lawmakers will be hearing a more powerful, united message from both principals and superintendents in the upcoming legislative session.
For more on the great work that Vicki Puckett is doing in Washington to advocate for excellent public education, be sure to follow her on Twitter at @vpuckettvicki.