Local principals were honored by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation — check out these MVPs

Photo above courtesy of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit

When COVID-19 hit, the role of principal took on a new level of importance. Schools across the country worked to maintain a cohesive atmosphere where students could thrive, and as principals worked alongside staff, they came up with innovative solutions.

In 2021, to honor the work of principals in Allegheny County, the Most Valuable Principal Award was established by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. This year, the 15 MVP awards are split across elementary, middle, and high schools. Nominees can come from public, private, or cyber/charter schools.

Kidsburgh asked the recipients of the award for 2023 to share with us how they felt about winning the MVP award.

Principal Melissa Wagner of West Allegheny Elementary said, “I am so grateful to be nominated and selected as a Penguins MVP Principal. I appreciate the fact others are noting and recognizing my efforts to lead and serve alongside my amazing staff and students and families at McKee.”

Melissa also expressed gratitude for the support of the three partner organizations that give the award: The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and The Grable Foundation. Each MVP principal is awarded a $1000 donation to their school, a personalized authentic Penguins jersey, and a Penguins Prize Pack (including two tickets to cheer on the Penguins in a party suite).

Some of the winners during the Penguins game they were honored at. Courtesy of the AIU.

“We are extremely proud to have Melissa recognized regionally for her efforts.” West Allegheny superintendent Dr. Jerri Lippert said. “Her deep knowledge of equity and commitment to excellence is something that we are grateful for and ensure is shared amongst all administrators in the West Allegheny School District.”

Principal David Radcliffe of the Brentwood Area School District talked about the excitement of having his school publicly honored at a Penguins game. “It was an awesome experience to see ‘Brentwood Middle School’ on the jumbotron at PPG Paints Arena and be recognized through so many social media outlets,” he said. “I am very lucky to experience the activities that go on in our building everyday, so it was great to see our school get such positive recognition.”

In the Northgate School District, Principal RJ Long says he was truly humbled to receive this award. “I’ve been in middle school as a teacher, coach, advisor, assistant principal and principal for the past 18 years, and I absolutely love the middle school students.” Long says there is more growth and development happening during middle school than at any other time in our lives. “I get the opportunity to help guide and support them through those challenging years. As a principal, I see myself as a servant leader to the students, staff, parents, community, and administrative team.”

Superintendent of Northgate School District, Caroline Johns, expressed her pleasure in their principal’s recognition. She says he and his colleagues are doing incredible things on a daily basis. “It is especially wonderful to see Mr. Long recognized for this award. He is one of the most student-centered administrators I have ever had the privilege to work with.”

“No one who works in public education seeks recognition for their efforts, but it definitely gave me the opportunity to reflect on the good work that our team has done to make our school a better place for our students,” said Principal Long. “It also shines a light on Northgate in a very positive way, and for that I am greatly appreciative.”

The 2023 Winners of the Pittsburgh Penguins MVP award.

Principal Radcliffe adds that the awards are a good way to highlight the excellence of Allegheny County schools . “It was very humbling to be honored in this way. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the Grable Foundation, and the AIU are amazing partners and very supportive of schools and other community organizations in this region,” he said.

“To be recognized along with such deserving colleagues from other districts helps to demonstrate what great things are happening in our schools in Allegheny County and western Pennsylvania.”

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