Aug. 18—After taking home the Georgia Principal of the Year award earlier this year, Marietta High School's Keith Ball is within arm's reach of being named the best secondary school principal in the country.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals announced Ball is among three finalists for its 2022 Principal of the Year award. Selected from dozens of finalists from across the nation, Ball's fellow contenders are Beth Houf of Fulton, Missouri, and Ted McCarthy of Sutton, Massachusetts.
Ball, who was first nominated for the state-level award in January, told the MDJ he was "honored and shocked" by his consideration.
"Knowing what principals have to do across the country and the challenges that they face, and the process that we went through to get to this point, I'm just humbled," said Ball, who's already gone through a lengthy interview process for the award.
"I really hope to celebrate the profession, you know, more than probably celebrating the things that other people think I do well," he added.
Taking the helm at Marietta High three years ago, Ball came to the school after it had gone through a series of principals in quick succession. The NASSP praised not just his steady leadership, but his initiatives to promote racial justice, inclusion and equal access to education.
Among those is the school's night school program, offering flexible learning hours to high school students who might otherwise have missed class or dropped out because of work commitments.
"We had kids that were already choosing labor over learning, but that was significantly accelerated by the pandemic," Ball said.
Another area of praise was Marietta's efforts — "before it was a hot topic," Ball notes — to open dialogues around racial justice between students, staff and administrators.
"At the end of the day ... we're not taking a particular side. We're really trying to advocate on the side of the child and (do) whatever that takes," Ball said. "We don't really have the luxury, nor should we be, of taking or promoting a particular side. We're on the kids' side, and I know sometimes that's a tough place to be."
"Mr. Ball, Ms. Houf, and Mr. McCarthy are three school leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring that learning environments prioritize equity, community, and student wellness. These three principals exemplify the positive impact of collaborative leadership to help drive student success," said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The winner will be announced October 5, during National Principals Month.