Amy Duke, principal of Bibb Countys Springdale Elementary School, knew something was up when someone else called a staff meeting at her school Wednesday.
However, Duke, whos leaving Bibb schools for a job in Dudley, was surprised Wednesday when she walked into Springdales media center to find a gathering that included members of her family, students and faculty members.
The group also included Hal Beaver, executive director of the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals.
The giant cake at the head table that read Congrats, Dr. Duke was a dead giveaway that this was no ordinary gathering.
Instead, it was a way to celebrate Duke being named the associations 2013 National Distinguished Principal.
Im shocked, surprised, Duke said. I dont know what to say. Its about the (Springdale) staff. ... You cant be a great principal without a great staff. There are a lot of great principals in the community, in Bibb County. For them to choose me, Im stunned.
Duke was nominated for the award by other Georgia principals in a search process conducted by the association, Beaver said. Criteria for selection of the principals set by (the National Association of Elementary School Principals) and the U.S. Department of Education requires that the honorees be selected by their colleagues for achievements above and beyond those expected in a school program, he said.
Some of Dukes accomplishments noted in her nomination include receiving the Governors Bronze Award in the highest percentage category three times for student achievement, receiving the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals School Bell Award and Patron Award. She also was asked to serve on the Governors Principal Advisory Committee and is a participant in the National Principals Mentoring Certification Program.
Duke, a native of Dublin, said shes moving back to her hometown where she will be principal at Northwest Laurens Elementary School in Dudley next year.
She arrived at Springdale eight years ago as assistant principal.
It all happened so fast. I was assistant principal and became principal in a year, she said. This staff is amazing.
Duke will travel to Washington, D.C., in November for two days of activities honoring elementary educators chosen throughout the country.
As Duke received congratulatory hugs and handshakes from parents and members of her staff, Cassandra Matlock, a pre-kindergarten paraprofessional, sat at a table by herself silently crying.
Im so proud of her and sad at the same time because shes leaving, Matlock said. I was inspired to come work here because of her forward thinking. Im going to miss her. No better person deserves this.
To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.