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Highwood Hills Elementary Principal Dr. Fatima Lawson Named Minnesota 2024 NAESP National Distinguished Principal

Highwood Hills Elementary Principal Dr. Fatima Lawson Named Minnesota 2024 NAESP National Distinguished Principal

Dr. Fatima Lawson, principal of Highwood Hills Elementary, has been named the Minnesota 2024 NAESP National Distinguished Principal (NDP). This marks the 40th year that MESPA and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) have presented the prestigious award.

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 staff in their learning communities.

Dr. Lawson has been honored for her outstanding leadership, innovative initiatives, and unwavering commitment to educational excellence. Her transformative accomplishments, including the implementation of the Polytechnic Program, the result of listening to the wishes and dreams of families, cultural groups and other members of the school community.

Through her advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dr. Lawson has demonstrated a profound commitment to ensuring every student has access to a high-quality education. Her exemplary leadership not only within her school but also within the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association (MESPA) for over 23 years, embodies the spirit of leadership and service. Dr. Lawson's recognition as the 2024 National Distinguished Principal of Minnesota underscores her exceptional leadership qualities and notable contributions to the field of education. 

The program is based on three fundamental ideas: 

  • Children’s attitudes towards learning and their perceptions of themselves as lifelong learners are established in the beginning school years.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Each year, NDPs represent Pre-K – 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. Honorees from private schools and overseas schools are selected by special committees.

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

  • Has been a building principal (not assistant principal) for at least 5 years;
  • Is an active principal of a school in which a commitment to excellence is clearly evident through programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and through firmly established community ties with parents and local business organizations;
  • Is respected by students, colleagues, parents, and the community at large;
  • Is clearly committed to excellence; Shows a strong commitment to the principalship through active membership in professional associations; and
  • Assumes an active role in their community, distinguishing themselves as a leader in civic, religious, or humanitarian activities;

For more details on the NDP process, visit National Distinguished Principal under Honors on MESPA’s website: www.mespa.net/ndp.