Douglas MacArthur Elementary named NIET Founder’s Award finalist

The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) has announced that Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Perry Township Schools has earned $10,000 for its selection as an NIET Founder’s Award finalist. The school is among four across the country under consideration for the $50,000 grand prize, which will be announced virtually at the NIET National Conference on Thursday, March 4, at 10 a.m. ET.

“Outstanding results at Douglas MacArthur Elementary and Perry Township at large are proof that investing in the leadership and development of talented teachers changes lives,” NIET Chairman and Founder Lowell Milken said. “I commend Principal Star Hardimon and her faculty on their accomplishments year after year, and for making Douglas MacArthur a collaborative, nurturing place for all to excel.”

For 20 years, NIET has partnered with schools, districts, states and universities to ensure all students have effective educators. Its work to help develop teacher leaders, collaborate on successful strategies and provide feedback and support to peers that address teacher and student needs have served more than 9,000 schools and have impacted more than 275,000 teachers and 2.75 million students.

NIET’s partner schools have shown success by both outperforming similar schools and having greater teacher retention. Schools including Douglas MacArthur have continued to advance during the pandemic through the use of NIET’s new tools and resources to accommodate virtual instruction, support from expert leaders and trainers and access to a large network of educators united around shared learning. The Founder’s Award was created by Lowell Milken to honor one school annually for exceptional implementation of NIET’s principles to build educator excellence and advance student success.

Principal Star Hardimon observes the work of one of her students at Douglas MacArthur Elementary. (Submitted photo)

“Perry Township prides itself on ’empowering students to grow,’ but it also empowers teachers to grow. Douglas MacArthur is a shining example of that,” said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. “Principal Hardimon describes her teachers as being ‘all in,’ and we see that in everything they do – from leading professional learning to looking at data to ensuring that no one falls through the cracks. These are the values they live by each day, and what makes their story worthy of recognition.”

Founder’s Award recipients are selected by NIET based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement; plan for regular professional learning focused on real-time needs of teachers and students; create a culture of collaboration and reflection; and leverage teacher leaders and administrators to drive student growth. Perry Township began its partnership with NIET in 2010 with two schools, then extended it districtwide in 2012 – including to Douglas MacArthur. The district’s commitment and dedication to excellent teaching have remained strong under the leadership of Superintendent Patrick W. Mapes. Principal Hardimon – a former teacher – credits school and district support for helping her lead Douglas MacArthur to an A state rating through developing her teachers as learners, challenging their thinking, continuously analyzing data and getting results.

“NIET’s structure of formal leadership has helped me peel away some of my own feelings from having to always have the answers to posing questions to the team that lead to realistic solutions, growth, and learning,” said Hardimon. “My leadership has grown through NIET and the support from our central office. It’s hard for me to think about where I would be as a building leader without these structures. NIET’s model allows me to provide the support for my teachers and receive the support from the district to help kids and pull it all together.”

Douglas MacArthur joins fellow finalists Michael Anderson School (Avondale Elementary School District, Ariz.); North DeSoto High School (DeSoto Parish Schools, La.); and Prairie View Elementary School (Goshen Community Schools, Ind.) in contention for the $50,000 grand prize.