Oregon educators with ties to George Fox named top principals

Susan Rieke-Smith, Oregon's Middle School Principal of the Year.
Susan Rieke-Smith

Jay Mathiesen, Oregon's High School Principal of the Year.
Jay Mathisen

Two educators affiliated with George Fox University’s School of Education earned Oregon Principal of the Year honors this spring, continuing a string of success for the Oregon Christian university and its educational programs.

Susan Rieke-Smith, principal at Houck Middle School in Salem, Ore., since 2007, was named the 2011 Oregon Middle School Principal of the Year by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) and the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators. She is a 2000 alumna of George Fox’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.

Also honored this spring was Jay Mathisen, principal of LaPine High School in LaPine, Ore., who was selected COSA’s Principal of the Year. He is currently taking doctoral classes at George Fox and will be a guest presenter in one of the education classes on the George Fox campus this summer..

Rieke-Smith and Mathisen are the latest state and/or national award recipients associated with George Fox.

Last year, Cathy Carnahan, a principal at Duniway Middle School in McMinnville, Ore., who completed George Fox’s initial administrative licensure program in 2000, won the state honor and was later selected the MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year among a group of more than 50 candidates representing every state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense.

Still another former School of Education alumnus, Randy Trani, was Oregon Principal of the Year in 2008-09. He is superintendent and principal for the Corbett School District in Corbett, Ore. George Fox also had an award-winning educator in Sara Johnson, assistant superintendent of Lincoln County schools in Newport, Ore. She was named Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year in 2007, when she was principal at Grandhaven Elementary School in McMinnville, Ore.

“Recognitions, such as these from peer-professional organizations, speak to the leadership qualities of these individuals,” said Marc Shelton, director of administrative licensure in George Fox’s Educational Foundations and Leadership program. “Each has taken what they have learned in our preparation programs coupled with their experiences to transform schools through being relevant, expecting rigorous thinking, and promoting positive relationships to develop a more equitable process to improve learning for all students.”

Under Rieke-Smith, Houck Middle School has experienced significant improvement in student achievement, particularly among the 30 percent of students receiving ELL/limited-English proficiency services and the 85 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Under Mathisen’s four years of leadership at La Pine High School, the number of students meeting state standards has nearly doubled in math and is up 23 percent in reading. In addition, the dropout rate has been reduced from 7.4 to 1.7 percent. The school earned the state’s highest ranking, “Outstanding,” on this year’s Oregon Report Card and met Adequate Yearly Progress – the first time in school history.

The two Oregon educators will be honored at the 37th Annual COSA Professional Development Conference in Seaside, Ore., June 22-24.