Colorado principal chosen as 2017 National Principal of the Year
DENVER – Thomas J. Dodd, principal of Lesher Middle School in the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, was named the 2017 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The award was announced Monday at a surprise assembly at his school attended by state Sen. John Kefalas and Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry. The announcement came as part of NASSP’s celebration of National Principals Month. U.S. Education Secretary John King surprised Dodd with a phone call during the ceremony.
“We wish to congratulate Thomas Dodd on this prestigious award and thank him for his hard work for Colorado’s students,” said Colorado’s interim Education Commissioner Katy Anthes. “Mr. Dodd is an inspiration to all principals and educators across Colorado and the nation.”
Dodd has been principal at Lesher for 11 years, leading a reinvention of the school's culture captured by the "Anchor Down" motto and anchor pins that all teachers wear to highlight the importance of students feeling grounded at the school and to symbolize the educators’ firm, stable roles as advocates for each child.
Under Dodd's leadership, Lesher has focused on school-wide equity. Dodd eliminated the de facto remedial track among students not involved in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program by expanding the program to include the entire school. Under Dodd, the school's enrollment increased from 500 students to 770 students, taking a school that was on the verge of closure to one that maintains a wait list every year.
"We are grateful to have such an exceptional person in leadership in our district,” Poudre School Superintendent Sandra Smyser said. “Tom’s upbeat, engaging leadership style resonates with staff and students alike. He has positively impacted thousands of lives during his time at Lesher.”
Dodd is a regular presenter at state and national conferences and has led his school to be named a MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School in 2012 and a National School to Watch every year since 2014 by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform.
Dodd holds a bachelor's degree in history and secondary education from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, two master's degrees in physical education and in social studies education from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo., and a doctorate in educational leadership from Penn State.
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 interviewed and rigorously reviewed the finalists’ applications to select the national winner. As the National Principal of the Year, Dodd will represent the nation’s principals in high-level education policy discussions and will be enrolled in the highly regarded McKinsey Management Program for School Leaders.
Learn more about the NASSP Principal of the Year program here.