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Congratulations! 2020 AAESP Principal of the Year
Congratulations! 2020 AAESP Principal of the Year
Monday, June 01, 2020
Congratulations to Springdale Elementary School Principal Justin Swope in receiving the 2020 Elementary Principal of the Year Award

Praised for his innovation in improving school performance and making school culture a priority, Justin C. Swope, principal, Lee Elementary in the Springdale School District, has been selected as the Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals (AAESP) 2020 Elementary Principal of the Year.

"We start with the beliefs that 'all students can learn' and 'building relationships.' This drives our vision of all learners growing and our mission of personalized teaching and learning," said Swope. "Our mantra, which is cited by students each day, is 'I can do this.'"

AAESP annually recognizes an Arkansas elementary principal who assumes an active role in their community; is commended as a leader in civic, religious, or humanitarian activities; is respected by students, colleagues, and his community; among other accomplishments. 

The award also designates Swope as a Distinguished Principal in the National Association of Elementary School Principal’s (NAESP) National Distinguished Principal ® (NDP) program, which honors outstanding elementary and middle-level principals who ensure that America's children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement.

During Swope's tenure as principal at Lee Elementary, the school has been designated in the top 10% of schools in Arkansas for academic growth, named as a "Beating the Odds" school by the University of Arkansas' Office for Educational Policy, and counted in the top five schools in the Northwest Arkansas region for literacy content growth.

"Being a high-poverty, high-language-minority school, Lee Elementary is a challenging school in which to work," he said. "According to NWEA MAP assessments, scores in both math and reading had been declining since the end of the 2014-2015 school year, and scores on the ACT Aspire assessment scores were the lowest in the district in most all categories. It was during that summer that I decided we need to make some vast changes at our school and experience a turnaround."

Swope said that one component of his success includes sharing decision making in his school. "My leadership team consists of representatives from every major certified team in our building in addition to classified representation," he said. 

"As a school principal, Justin has transformed his school into an innovative professional learning community," said Maribel Childress, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and PK-5 in the Springdale School District. "His school exhibits a collaborative culture, not just among the educators, but also with parents and the community."

Wesley Robinson, fifth grade teacher at Lee Elementary, said that Swope makes being an administrator look easy. "Justin's polished work as a principal comes off as natural for him," he said. "He radiates humor and positive energy, because he has all the fundamentals nailed down and can enjoy his work making Lee the best it can be."