In August, I was named as the Mississippi High School Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Because of this award, my wife and I were invited to travel to Washington D.C. for the 2014 NASSP Principals’ Institute. I was honored to represent DeSoto County Schools and the state of Mississippi at this prestigious event, and here is an account of our trip.
Sunday, September 7th
The NASSP held a reception and opening ceremony at the Newseum for all of the 2014-2015 State Principals of the Year. The reception was held on the 7th floor balcony overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and the U.S. Capitol. It was a great venue, and it was a nice way for all of the principals and their spouses to get to meet each other and visit in a casual setting. After the reception, everyone moved inside to the Knight Conference Center for the opening ceremony. We heard remarks from several speakers including the National Principals of the Year from the previous school year, and all of this year’s state winners were recognized and given a personalized plaque in their honor.
Monday, September 8th
The NASSP hosted an all-day professional development session for the principals. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to share ideas and learn from others, and we got the opportunity to brag about our students and teachers and the wonderful things that we have going on at our schools. Regarding academics, I had the opportunity to let everyone know about our recent accomplishments at DeSoto Central High School regarding the PSAT test and our National Merit Semifinalists. And regarding school culture, I shared about our school unity and our “When you play one of us, you play all of us” motto that we use in all facets of our school. On another note, they named me as a “Twitter Pro” and I got to share some tips regarding social media in education with a group of principals. I was also able to help some principals set up new Twitter accounts and give ideas to other principals that had existing accounts.
Tuesday, September 9th
The principals and spouses spent the entire day on Capitol Hill. The NASSP staff started the day with a group photo of all of the principals in front of the US Capitol, and then the principals divided up to go to various tours and meetings. Amanda and I spent most of the morning in the U.S. Capitol with staff members from Representative Alan Nunnelee’s office. During our visit, we were able to visit the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate galleries, and we particularly enjoyed a debate that took place on the U.S. Senate floor between Republican and Democratic Senators. It was amazing to see the legislative process at work. All of the principals then reconvened for a luncheon at the Washington Court Hotel. The keynote speaker was Congresswoman Susan Davis from California, and we were also shown a videotaped message from United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. After the luncheon, Amanda and I had the opportunity to meet with our U.S. Senators, Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran. We were able to share stories about DeSoto County Schools, and we let them know that we appreciate their support of our school district and public education in Mississippi.
Wednesday, September 10th
Because of the generosity of Representative Alan Nunnelee and his staff, Amanda and I were able to tour the White House on the final day of our visit. It was amazing to actually be inside of one of the world’s most famous buildings and to know that we were in a place where so many important events have occurred during the course of our nation’s history. I thought about our country’s founding fathers as I looked out of the famous oval-shaped windows on the south side of the White House to see the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial in the distance. Even though most of the areas of the White House have restricted access, we were able to enter some very historical rooms including the East Room, the State Dining Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, and the Green Room. Before exiting the building onto Pennsylvania Avenue, Amanda and I stood just inside of the main entrance and thought about all of the important greetings that had occurred in that very location. And less than twelve hours later, we watched as President Barack Obama gave a live address to a national television audience from that very spot that we had been standing earlier that day. It was quite an experience!