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Cuyuna Range Elementary principal up for national award

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Principal Kurt Becker. Photo from

Cuyuna Range Elementary School Principal Kurt Becker is one of four finalists in Minnesota for the National Distinguished Principal award.

This is the 35th year the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals have presented this award.

"Principals are the heart of what make school communities go," Jon Millerhagen, MESPA executive director, stated in a news release. "Everything stems from having a great principal: challenging and appropriate curriculum, student achievement and growth, a great staff that is constantly pushing itself forward with relevant professional development, and so much more."

This year's four finalists, Millerhagen said, are a cross-section of all the amazing work happening in schools around the state.

Principles recognized by the National Association of Elementary School Principals must be current principals with at least five years of experience and plans to continue as a practicing principal. They must demonstrate evidence of outstanding contributions to the community and to the education profession. Principals must work at association member schools at the time of nomination and maintain membership through the conclusion of the awards ceremony.

Becker was nominated by Christopher Bjerklie, principal of J.A. Hughes Elementary School in Red Lake Falls.

In a letter of recommendation of Becker, Lisa Carlson, principal at Woodland Elementary in Eagan, wrote: "Becker consistently demonstrates his commitment to students, staff and parents in his school and district by always working toward his vision of excellence and equity. He truly cares about what is best for students and makes decisions that will always benefit them in the highest way possible."

Among the positive changes he has seen as the principal of Cuyuna Range Elementary, Becker lists staff's ability to transform the school into a place where parents want to send their children and where children want to learn.

"By ensuring world-class academic programming, developing stronger building security and creating an environment of respect, we have been able to develop a reputation as a school that really cares about our students," Becker said. "Parents are feeling more comfortable and more confident that we will take the best possible care of their children each and every day."

All nominated principals were reviewed by a statewide selection committee, including representatives from each of Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association's 12 divisions, 2018 winner Curtis Slater, and selection committee chair Tim Bell.

The committee will interview the four finalists May 3 and choose a winner for the 2019 Minnesota National Distinguished Principal award.

Along with Becker, the other three finalists are Dawn Brown, of Washington Learning Center in New Ulm; Eric Skanson, of Cold Spring Elementary in Cold Spring; and Melissa Sonnek, of Edgerton Elementary in Maplewood.