Heather Renner, principal at Ford Middle School in Midland, has been named this year’s Washington State Middle Level Principal of the Year by a panel from the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP). She was one of five finalists chosen from a field of 10 statewide nominees.
Renner began in 2001 as a teacher at Ford, which is part of the Franklin Pierce School District. She was promoted to dean of students in 2004 and to assistant principal in 2006. She has been principal since 2010.
Under her leadership, the school where 60 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch has risen the past three years in the State Board of Education Achievement Index. Ford climbed from “good” to “very good” to its current “exemplary” rating.
Ford reduced by a third the number of students who are absent from school a significant number of days and reduced the number of suspensions by 30 percent.
The school hosts a monthly family night and maintains close relationships with the families of the 900 students at the school. In addition, Renner oversaw a five-year federal grant that offered organized after-school activities, meals and academic support. When that grant expired last summer, she sought local funding and has put in place a successful program through the Pierce County YMCA three days a week that offers many of the same services.
“Heather has clearly established herself as an effective leader of a strong staff at Ford Middle,” said Don Rash, AWSP’s Director of Middle Level Programs. “Heather has made impressive strides in student achievement, particularly significant in the area of math. She has the full backing of her staff, students and parents.”
Franklin Pierce Superintendent Frank Hewins said that “despite the challenges of serving a high-poverty community with multiple languages other than English, Principal Renner’s work with Ford Middle School’s highly effective staff has taken an already high-achieving school to greater heights.”
Renner earned a master of education from City University and a bachelor of arts in education from Western Washington University. She has her principal credentials from the University of Washington-Tacoma.
She now becomes eligible for the 2013 National Principals of the Year award.