Kurt Becker Finalist for Distinguished Principal Award

Kurt Becker Finalist for Distinguished Principal Award
Posted on 03/18/2019
Kurt Becker, principal of Cuyuna Range Elementary School in the Crosby-Ironton School District, and a member of the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA), is one of four finalists for Minnesota 2019 NAESP National Distinguished Principal (NDP). This marks the 35th year that MESPA and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have presented the prestigious award.

Among the positive changes he has seen as the principal of CRES, Becker lists the staffs’ ability to transform Cuyuna Range Elementary School into a place where parents want to send their children and where children want to learn. “By ensuring world-class academic programming, developing stronger building security, and creating an environment of respect, we have been able to develop a reputation as a school that really cares about our students. Parents are feeling more comfortable and confident that we will take the best possible care of their children each and every day. This is something we continue to work on, but we have made some amazing strides.”

“This is truly a “Go C-I Go” moment,” said Jamie Skjeveland, superintendent of Crosby-Ironton School District. “We are very proud of the progress that Mr. Becker and the entire CRES staff are making, on behalf of our community’s children and families.”
Becker was nominated by Christopher Bjerklie, principal in the Red Lake Falls School District. In a letter of recommendation for Becker, Lisa Carlson, principal in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools, wrote, “Mr. Becker consistently demonstrates his commitment to students, staff, and parents in his school and district by always working toward his vision of excellence and equity. He truly cares about what is best for students and makes decisions that will always benefit them in the highest way possible.”

The National Distinguished Principals (NDP) program was established in 1984 to recognize elementary and middle level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities. The program was based on three fundamental ideas:
- Children’s attitudes towards learning and their perceptions of themselves as lifelong learners are established in the beginning school years.
- The scope and quality of children’s educational experiences are determined primarily by the school principal, who establishes, through the important work of teachers and the support of caring parents, the character of a particular school’s program.
- The dedication and enthusiasm of the outstanding principals who guide children’s early education experiences should be acknowledged to both show appreciation for their work as well as to allow them to serve as models for others in the field.

“Principals are at the heart of what make school communities go,” said Jon Millerhagen, MESPA executive director. “Everything stems from having a great principal: challenging and appropriate curriculum, student achievement and growth, a great staff that is constantly pushing itself forward with relevant professional development, and so much more. Principals don’t get nearly enough credit for all they do, and with the NDP award we get a chance to recognize just a few of the principals in our state doing amazing work every day. The four finalists identified for this honor this year are a strong cross-section representing all the amazing work happening in schools around our great state.”

Criteria established by NAESP require that the individual is a practicing principal with at least five years experience in the principalship, who plans to continue as a practicing principal. The principal must demonstrate evidence of outstanding contributions to the community and to the education profession and should lead a school that:
- Must be a member of NAESP at the time of nomination and maintain membership through the conclusion of the NAESP Award Ceremony;
- Has been a building principal (not assistant principal) for 5 years
- Is clearly committed to excellence;
- Has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students; and
- Has firm ties to parents and the community.

On May 3, Becker and the other three finalists will be interviewed and the selection committee will determine the 2019 Minnesota National Distinguished Principal. In addition to Becker, finalists for the honor are: Dawn Brown, principal of Washington Learning Center, New Ulm Public Schools; Eric Skanson, principal of Cold Spring Elementary, ROCORI School District; and Melissa Sonnek, principal of Edgerton Elementary, Roseville Area Schools. For more details on the NDP process, visit National Distinguished Principal under Honors on MESPA’s website: www.mespa.net/ndp