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Florida High School Leader Named National Principal of the Year

By guest blogger Madeline Will

Jayne Ellspermann, a Florida high school principal, has been selected as the 2015 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Ellspermann has been principal at West Port High School in Ocala, Fla. for 10 years and has emphasized a personalized culture for all students, as well as college access. The award was announced today at a surprise assembly at the school. 

The veteran school leader received the award at a surprise assembly today at her school. Jayne-Ellspermann-principal-of-the-year-blog.jpg

"Jayne Ellspermann simply sees no limit to her students' potential nor to the school's potential to help them fulfill it," said the association's executive director JoAnn Bartoletti in a statement. "Her passion and focus on personalization, academic rigor, and collaborative leadership—hallmarks of NASSP's Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement—keep her moving ever forward to find creative ways to ensure each student in her school is known and well served."

Ellspermann launched an initiative called "Power Hour" three years ago. Students were given autonomy over their lunch hour—they could eat lunch at any time anywhere on campus, and in the remaining time, they could participate in a school club, get help from a teacher, work in an open computer lab, or do another creative activity with other students. Meanwhile, teachers have a duty-free lunch (as specified in their union contract) during half of the hour, and hold office hours during the other half, during which they can tutor, sponsor clubs, give make up sessions, or create any other learning opportunities.

Now, the course failure rate has nearly disappeared, the graduation rate has gone up 15 percentage points, and students' participation rate in co-curricular activities has increased from about 10 percent to almost 70 percent.


Ellspermann wrote an essay about the implementation of "Power Hour" for the association's magazine Principal Leadership. An excerpt:

"The imagined risks never materialized. Trusting the students to use their time wisely empowered them to be successful. They are proud that they are trusted to use this time to be with their friends and to help themselves academically. High-achieving AP and dual enrollment students as well as academically struggling students find the relationships they have developed with their teachers and other students during Power Hour extend to the classroom. Power Hour is a win-win for our students and teachers."

Ellspermann also spearheaded an on-campus college program so students can earn an associate's degree while still in high school. West Port is a grade "A" school in Florida and has the highest test scores in its district, Marion County Public Schools.

Ellspermann, a former law enforcement officer, became a high school social studies teacher in the district 34 years ago. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and earned a master's degree in education from the University of Florida.

Ellspermann will receive a grant of $3,000 from the association, in addition to a $1,500 grant that all finalists received. The grants are to be used to improve learning at the principals' schools.

Photo: Jayne Ellspermann, 2015 National Principal of the Year, National Association of Secondary School Principals. Courtesy of NASSP.

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