South Mountain High School Principal Kate McDonald was named a 2016 Rodel Foundation Exemplary Principal, one of eight in Arizona, the Rodel Foundation. These principals were selected for their ability to inspire staff and create high-achieving, safe and welcoming schools in high-need communities. They will provide professional development and mentoring to Rodel Aspiring Principals, creating a pipeline for educators who can eventually lead high-need schools.
McDonald was nominated by Phoenix Union High School District Interim Superintendent and former Rodel Exemplary Principal Dr. Chad Gestson. Rodel had a team of former principals and superintendents that identified semifinalists and visited campuses. Through interviews and observations with the principal and staff, the team looked for evidence of high expectations, a focus on effective teaching and student management strategies. After 15 finalists were named, this year’s cohort was pared to eight. Each Exemplary Principal receives a $1,500 stipend and mentors aspiring principals for two years.
McDonald is in her first year at South Mountain, after a highly successful stint leading Metro Tech High School for seven years. Metro Tech earned the A+ School of Excellence Award given by the Arizona Educational Foundation in 2014, demonstrating sustained high achievement or significant improvement through assessment data.
Metro Tech was named a 2014 Bronze School in the U.S. News and World Report Magazine’s Best High Schools list. In 2012-13 it was recognized as a Beat the Odds “Gold School,” by the Center for the Future of Arizona, and was a 2012-13 Arizona Higher Performing School according to the National Center for Educational Achievement annual report. Metro Tech was awarded a Science Foundation Arizona grant for $900,000, in 2009-12, to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects around sustainability. For an urban school with a student body that was 98% minority and 82% low income, Metro Tech had a 95% four-year graduation rate and an annual dropout rate below 1% in 2014-15.
McDonald is currently engaged in creating the Academies at South Mountain, featuring Career Academies in Sciences and Technology; Public and Social Services, Technical Engineering and Arts and Design.
McDonald has over 25 years experience in high school education, including 12 years as an English teacher and four years as a District Language Arts Curriculum Specialist. One of the first in Phoenix Union to earn National Board Certification in 1999 and recertified in 2009, she has a BA in English and Masters in Secondary Education from ASU.
“I demonstrate through words and actions that I believe in our highest potential, and believe that each of us wants to achieve at the highest level. My job is simply to create the conditions where that can happen,” McDonald said of setting high expectations.
Rodel Exemplary Principals represent some of the best school leaders that Arizona has to offer,” said Howard Paley of the Rodel Foundation. “Our Principal Initiative is an opportunity to recognize these leaders. But more importantly, we want these leaders to mentor aspiring leaders and provide an exemplary network of school leaders to connect across our state.”
Besides Dr. Gestson, then at Camelback in 2013, Phoenix Union Principals Dr. Zachary Muñoz, Betty Fairfax (2013); Dr. Gabriel Trujillo, Trevor Browne (2014) and Ricardo Cordova, Carl Hayden (2015) have been Rodel Exemplary Principal Finalists.