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MN National Distinguished Principal Finalists
2/13/2013 3:20 PM

(St. Paul, MN, February 13, 2013) – Three principals have been selected as finalists  for Minnesota 2013 National Distinguished Principal:
  • Mari Lu Martens, principal, Sibley East Elementary Schools (Sibley East)
  • Donna Montgomery, principal, Gatewood Elementary School (Hopkins)
  • Lillie Pang, principal, Hale Community School (Minneapolis)
This marks the 30th year MESPA and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have presented the prestigious award, which has corporate sponsorship from VALIC.

“At the helm of every successful school is a successful principal,” said Gail Connelly, NAESP executive director. “Our National Distinguished Principals program provides us with an opportunity to recognize the outstanding leadership of these principals and their commitment to creating successful learning communities. Because of them, students thrive academically, teachers grow professionally, and communities are strengthened.”

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 is based on three fundamental ideas:

  1. Children’s attitudes toward learning and their perceptions of themselves as lifelong learners are established in the beginning school years.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The NDP program is designed to recognize the outstanding leadership of active, on-line principals. Criteria established by NAESP require that the individual:

  • Is a practicing principal with at least five years experience in the principalship.
  • Plans to continue as a practicing principal.
  • Demonstrates evidence of outstanding contributions to the community and to the education profession.
  • Leads a school that is clearly committed to excellence.
  •  a school that has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students.
  • Leads a school that has firm ties to parents and the community.
Each year, NDPs represent PreK – 8th grade public schools from all across the country as well as principals in U.S. private schools and those from the United States Departments of Defense Office of Educational Activity and the United States Department of State Office of Overseas Schools. Public school elementary and middle-level principals are nominated by peers in their state, and final selections are made by committees appointed by each of NAESP’s state affiliate offices.

The three principals were nominated by peers -- and received strong references from parents, peers, and supervisors.  On February 5, their nominations, letters of reference, written applications, and a short video (from each) highlighting the students in their schools, were reviewed by a statewide selection committee including: MESPA's 12 Division Presidents, the most recent NDP (Jon Millerhagen of Bloomington), and Mark French, MESPA NAESP State Representative, who chairs the selection committee. On May 3, the finalists will be interviewed and the committee will determine the 2013 Minnesota National Distinguished Principal.

For more detail on the NDP process, visit National Distinguished Principal under Honors on the MESPA Web,

Mari Lu Martens

Donna Montgomery

Lillie Pang

MESPA is the professional association of Minnesota’s elementary and middle level principals. With the vision to “be the premiere resource for preparing today’s principals for tomorrow and a strong leading voice for public education” and a statewide membership of 950 principals, MESPA has represented Minnesota’s principals since 1950. MESPA is affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and its 29,500 members nationwide.

MESPA Mission:
Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association is dedicated to promoting and improving education for children and youth, strengthening the role as educational leader for elementary and middle level principals, and collaborating with partners in education to assist in achieving these goals.