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Local educator earns state honor

By Kendra Peek

kendra.peek@amnews.com

Jessamine County resident Leo Labrillazo, principal at Mary G. Hogsett Elementary in Danville, will represent Kentucky at the National Distinguished Principals event in Washington D.C. in October.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Labrillazo, who was nominated by the school’s secretary, Anne Winburn. “I am honored. You work hard in a day … I am honored that someone thought to nominate me.”

According to the website of the National Distinguished Principals, to be nominated, the principal must have at least five years of experience in principalship, plans to continue being a principal and must demonstrate evidence of outstanding contributions to the community and the education profession.

The school they lead must be a member of the association, must be “clearly committed to excellence,” have programs designed to meet students’ needs academically and socially and must have firm ties to parents and the community.

The National Distinguished Principals program was established in 1984.

“I am really honored,” Labrillazo said, “It’s a great honor to be nominated and then to be chosen … I was surprised, but I’m also happy to be able to take a part in this.

“I am a humble person, but I know that when opportunities arise in life, you need to take advantage of those opportunities. I look forward to seeing what will come about from all of this, just the experience of it.”

Labrillazo is a member of the Kentucky Chapter of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. One principal is chosen to represent each state at the National Distinguished Principal event in Washington D.C., which will be Oct. 11-12.

Labrillazo said the application process (after being nominated) was pretty extensive.

“It was really a great time to reflect on my leadership style,” Labrillazo said. “It was actually a very long process with several essays. It was a great opportunity for me to reflect back on the last four years at Hogsett, especially now, when we are in the planning stages for Hogsett Primary (School).”

The application required letters of recommendation from Supt. Keith Look, a fellow principal, a teacher from his school and a community member or parent.

“Mr. Labrillazo’s meticulous and methodical approach creates a culture of professionalism that values responsibility, fairness, and authentic actions of putting students first,” Look said via email Tuesday. “As Mary G. Hogsett’s maestro, one can see his arts background in how he orchestrates the diverse talents and interests of his school stakeholders and produces symphonic success.

“It’s invigorating to all he impacts in seeing him recognized.”

Labrillazo said he is looking forward to the trip to D.C., which will provide him the opportunity to meet principals from other states and see what they’re implementing at their schools.

It won’t be his first trip there, but he thinks the experience will be something new.

“I’m really excited about it,” Labrillazo said.

According to Kara Boyer, the director of operations for the National Association of Elementary School principals, each state is allowed to select one elementary and one middle school winner, although some do not choose both.

There are also principals from private schools and schools within the United States Department of State chosen to attend.

In total, she said, there are about 60 who attend the event, which offer a chance for the principals to “mingle and have some professional development opportunities.”

“We provide sessions for that,” Boyer said.

Principals also give a speech about their school. All 60 are recognized at the event, which sometimes includes dignitaries. Boyer said the United States Secretary of Education is invited to the banquet; the Under Secretary for the Department of State often attends the first night reception.

Boyer said the principals are also challenged to raise $250 to help continue the program each year, which covers the cost of the event and lodging for the recipient and one guest.