MN National Distinguished Principal Program

The National Distinguished Principals (NDP) Program was established in 1984 as an annual event to honor exemplary elementary and middle school principals who set the pace, character, and quality of the education children receive during their early school years.

The program is sponsored by MESPA and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), in corporate sponsorship with VALIC. The program highlights the fundamental importance of the school principal in achieving educational excellence for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students. 

The recognition afforded by the NDP designation instills pride in principals' accomplishments and reinforces their continued leadership in helping children develop a lifelong love of learning.

One principal is chosen annually from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Public school principals are nominated by peers in their home states, and the final selection (based on applications submitted by each nominee) are made by each state's NAESP affiliate. (MESPA selects the Minnesota NDP.) NDP awards ceremonies take place in Washington, D.C., each fall.

Congratulations to our 2017 National Distinguished Principal Candidates! Read more about each of these amazing principals in their individual press releases:
Lisa Carlson, Woodland Elementary, Rosemont-Apple Valley-Eagan, Click Here for press release
Nancy Antoine, Bridgewater Elementary, Northfield: Click Here for press release
Jessica Cabeen, Woodson Kindergarten Center, Austin: Click Here for press release

NDP Process Timeline: 
Read the full NDP process timeline here

November 3, 2017 - Materials Avaiable: Nomination Form (Word or PDF) & Application Packet (Word or PDF)

January 2, 2017 - Nominations Due (Word or PDF) Send nominations to or mail to 1667 Snelling Avenue N, Suite C101, St. Paul, MN 55108. 

January 23, 2017 - Applications Due (Word or PDFSend the completed application to or mail to 1667 Snelling Avenue N, Suite C101, St. Paul, MN 55108. 

February 1, 2017 - Three Finalists Selected

May 5, 2017 - Finalists Interviewed and MN NDP is selected

Congratulations to our 2016 NDP: Brad Gustafson

“I try to balance leadership and management duties with a servant-mindset,” said Dr. Gustafson in his NDP leadership statement. “This provides perspective, vision, and balance. I ask for help when experiencing difficulty, and create conditions where our team is empowered to manage a safe and productive learning environment. By cultivating a sense of shared responsibility, those who are closest to the work become key contributors to the collective effort.”  He describes the foundation of a positive school climate by saying, “Building climate starts with people. I approach my work with passion and positivity because I’m thoroughly in love with our students and staff. Modeling what it looks like to be grateful for the opportunity to serve is one way to cultivate a child-centered climate.” 

Click here to read Brad's full press release!

NDP History

2016, Brad Gustafson, Wayzata
2015, Mark French, Osseo Area
Michelle Krell, Kasson-Mantorville 
2013, Mari Lu Martens, Sibley East
2012, Jon Millerhagen, Bloomington 
2011, Joan Franks, Minneapolis 
2010, Sanford Nelson, Detroit Lakes 
2009, Stacy DeCorsey, Jordan 
2008, Dr. Gail M. Swor, Bloomington 
2007, Jolene Jans Landwer, Coleraine 
2006, Diane M. Moeller, St. Cloud 

2005, John Ahem, Roseville 
2004, Wendie Anderson, Mora

2003, James Hoogheem, Osseo 

2002, Gloria Kumagai, St. Paul 
2001, Byron Schwab, Eagan 
2000, Jean Clark, Sauk Rapids 
1999, Mary Endorf, Orono 
1998, Craig Kay, Dassel-Cokato 
1997, Diane Trisko, Rochester 
1996, Jeffrey Raison, Minneapolis 
1995, Janet Pladson, Bloomington 

1994, Teresa (Teri) Edwards, Minneapolis 
1993, Patricia Erlandson, Edina 

1992, Robert Hurst, Brainerd 
1991, Delores Henderson, Saint Paul 
1990, Lynn Street, Westonka 
1989, Ken Hatch, Slayton; 
1988, Kay Douglass, Monticello 
1987, Robert Sande, Rochester 
1986, Roger Gordon, Duluth 
1985, Robert Ziegler, Rockford 
1984, Arlyn Gunderman, Mounds View 

MESPA is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization

1667 Snelling Avenue North, Suite C101
St. Paul, Minnesota, 55108
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