Here are the winners for the Rodel Exemplary Principal Award, a new honor that recognizes exceptional leaders in high-needs schools.

The Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona, in partnership with Social Venture Partners Arizona, launched the Rodel Exemplary Principal Initiative to reward outstanding principals and train aspiring principals.

Winners each will receive $5,000 in savings bonds and will mentor three principals over

Debbie Hudson

Lela Alston/Isaac School district


How long have you been a principal? Seven years.

Degrees: Bachelor’s in education from Arizona State University in 1974. Master’s in early childhood education from University of Phoenix in 1990.

Residence: Phoenix.


What do you do to motivate and encourage parents to get involved?

I try to gain their trust and get to know them very well. Part of the most wonderful thing is we have a friendly, warm place. We have parenting classes. Part of that is gaining this trust in the school. They come to the workshops, and we help them with ways to be successful. We give them books, materials, games and activities that they can use it with their child at home.

What special item did you bring today and why?

I brought a staff photo. The message is I would not be successful without my team. Every time I raise the bar, they meet it. We have 29 certified teachers. All of the teachers are in the photo. Altogether, Alston has 60 on staff; not all were in the photo.

– Betty Reid


Jeff Sprout

Montebello School/Alhambra School District

How long have you been a principal? Four years.

Previous education experience: Junior high science teacher and intervention specialist.

Degrees: Bachelor of science in biomedical engineering; master’s degree in education and a doctorate in education administration and supervision, all from Arizona State University.

Residence: Tempe.

Age: 42.

Why are you a principal in a school serving so many children in poverty when you could be a leader anywhere?

This is a very important cause, to bring the message of the importance of education into our urban centers and to see kids be successful.

What special item did you bring today and why?

I brought a book of poetry produced by the eighth-grade students. This book was just one example of the many things that happen at Montebello on a daily basis.

– Meghan E. Moravcik


Barbara Pierce

Madison Camelview Elementary/Madison Elementary district.


How long have you been a principal? Six years

Previous education experience: Special-education resource teacher and a third-grade teacher.

Degrees: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education, Northern Arizona University.

Residence: Scottsdale.

Age: 54.

When you’re feeling challenged, what drives you to continue?

“Being around students. When I’m having a tough day, I just go into a classroom where kids want to share their progress or what they are working on. That makes me smile. ”

What special item did you bring today and why?

“I brought a hard hat. My job is to build knowledge with students and teachers. Having very specific professional development that supports our students’ needs will then build teachers’ content knowledge, which they take back to the classroom.”

– Anne Ryman

Howard Paley

Edison Elementary/Mesa Public Schools

How long have you been a principal? Five years.

Previous education experience: 17 years as teacher and 2 years as assistant principal, at Mesa Public Schools and before that, Clark County schools in Las Vegas.

Degrees: University of Nevada-Las Vegas: bachelor’s degree in special education; Northern Arizona University: master’s degree in education leadership.

Residence: Chandler.

Age: 45.

When you’re feeling challenged, what drives you to continue?

I know it’s corny, but I think about what is in the best interest of the kids. They continually motivate me.

What special item did you bring today and why?

I brought a compass because it reminds me to go in the right direction. If you move two or three degrees off, then in three or four years you’re off direction.

– Ray Parker