News from the Arizona Daily Star

Three principals from area schools up for Rodel award

By Alexis Huicochea, Arizona Daily Star – January 7, 2016

Over the last several years, the leaders of three Tucson schools serving a high population of children in poverty have worked to buck the trend of low academic achievement in poor communities.

Those efforts have not only created learning environments with high expectations, they are also campuses considered to be safe, orderly and welcoming.

As a result, Cholla High Magnet School Principal Frank Armenta, Homer Davis Elementary leader Chad Miller and Daniel Schulter of Dodge Traditional Magnet School have been named finalists for the 2016 Rodel Exemplary Principal Award.

Frank Armenta

Age: 46

School: Cholla High Magnet School, Tucson Unified School District

Years as principal: 7

Best advice for new principals: “When you come in, you really are a servant — you serve people, you have to know that.”

Tidbits: Armenta dropped out of high school to “become a break dancer and foosball player of the world” but re-enrolled about a year later. He graduated as a fifth-year senior from Tucson High in 1988.

Vouch: “He epitomizes what a professional principal is about when it comes to listening to ideas, cultivating ideas, putting them into action, supporting staff and advocating for kids,” said TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.

Chad Miller

Age: 44

School: Homer Davis Elementary School, Flowing Wells Unified School District

Years as principal: 5

Best advice for new principals: “Make it a top priority to know your staff before looking to make any changes or improvements at your site.”

Tidbits: Miller is one of the oldest guys in his basketball league but it still very competitive and plays all positions — “I’m kind of a jack of all trades and master of none.”

Vouch: “Chad cares deeply about children succeeding as well as his staff,” said Flowing Wells Superintendent David Baker. “He models what he expects and he’s incredibly positive about the future.”

Daniel Schulter

Age: 53

School: Dodge Traditional Magnet Middle School, Tucson Unified School District

Years as principal: 5

Best advice for new principals: “You need to know what you are good at and find people who can support you on the things that are not your strengths.”

Tidbits: “I love to crochet, many don’t think men should crochet.” Before the winter break Schulter was making a blanket as a gift for one of his teachers.

Vouch: “He’s somebody who has really done a good job in establishing consistent excellence when it comes to middle school education,” TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said. “He has a model and a blueprint that many have come to visit and see and very few have been able to replicate.”

Because being a successful leader goes beyond day-to-day operations — Schulter has been known to tackle plumbing problems and Armenta regularly takes on lunch duty — the winning principal will mentor aspiring school leaders, sharing their secrets to success including:

  • How to create a positive school culture.
  • How to identify and evaluate highly effective teachers.
  • How to develop collaborative classrooms.
  • How to incorporate parent support.
  • How to train and monitor teachers as they utilize data to support instruction.

The honor also comes with a $1,500 honorarium.

“A great principal builds and supports a school culture where students, staff, teachers and community members can work together to provide the best education and opportunities for all students,” said Jackie Norton, Rodel president and CEO. “We’re proud to recognize the leadership qualities exhibited by these outstanding principals, and look forward to working with them as they mentor and inspire the school leaders of tomorrow.”

Over the last eight years, nearly five dozen Rodel Exemplary Principals have been named in Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties. Those school leaders have mentored 174 Rodel Aspiring Principals.

Of the three Pima County Exemplary Principal finalists, Armenta and Schulter represent the Tucson Unified School District, and Miller hails from Flowing Wells.

On Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star will reveal Pima County’s 2016 Rodel Exemplary Principal.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@tucson.com or 573-4175. On Twitter: @AlexisHuicochea