Senators don’t usually have much free time to make surprise visits to their constituents, but 2013 MetLife/NASSP Alaska Middle School Principal of the Year Greg Wohlman made such an impression on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that she made sure to stop by his school and thank him for his incredible leadership.
Greg, as one of 88 honorees for the MetLife/NASSP Principals of the Year program, met with his legislators, including Sen. Murkowski, on September 20 for their Capitol Hill Day. Greg and the other exemplary principals discussed with their legislators what they wanted to see in a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act-including multiple measures for teacher and principal performance, growth measures, and extended year graduation rates- and they also discussed their struggles with decreased funding at the federal and state levels, as well as the threat of sequestration that would cut federal education funding by over 8% next school year if Congress does not act to stop it. Greg and his principal colleagues used compelling stories and data to bolster their points, and gave invaluable insight to their legislators and Congressional staff on just how critical the role of the principal is to student success.
To return the favor of Greg’s visit, on October 3 Senator Murkowski travelled to Upper and Lower Kalskag on the Kuskokwim River (a hike across the state from Anchorage, AK that is not calculable by Googlemaps for driving) to visit Greg, principal of the Kalskag schools. The Senator worked with Kalskag leaders to organize a surprise potluck for Greg that hundreds of students and parents attended to honor their exemplary yet incredibly humble principal. The Native Village of Kalskag bestowed Greg with a malagg’aayaq, or traditional Yup’ik fur hat made out of fox. Watch a video of the surprise visit here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91AxfqqQslA&feature=youtu.be
“I was blown away when Principal Wohlman told me about the great things happening in Kalskag, and I was even more impressed when I visited the schools and saw firsthand how passionate these kids are about learning,” said Sen. Murkowski. “All 33 students at Zakar Levi Elementary were in an afterschool tutoring when I met them. They had been at the school since 9am, and at 5:30pm, they were still excited about what they were learning.”
When Greg began as principal in the Kuskokwim village five years ago, he faced student proficiency rates below 20%, high staff turnover, dismal student attendance, and unsatisfactory parent participation. Five years later, under Greg’s leadership, the school is completely different, with increased student proficiency rates and better standing in Adequate Yearly Progress , and an overall contagious excitement among students to learn.
Greg not only thoroughly enjoyed the surprise visit and potluck, but is grateful for the support of his Congresswoman. Says Greg, “Just as all the schools, students, teachers and administrators are not the same, neither are the legislators of the United States. Senator Murkowski’s sincere interest in what is happening in my schools is apparent through thought, word, and deed.”
NASSP Government Relations staff is incredibly proud of Greg not only for his amazing accomplishments at his school, but also for his effective advocacy on behalf of principals and education at the federal level. Help us celebrate great principals like Greg this month during National Principals Month, and visit www.principalsmonth.org for ways to get involved.