Kelso Virtual Academy Principal Cindy Sholtys-Cromwell was one of three digital principals honored this year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
“I knew that I was in the running. I had been asked to apply for it, but I’m just Cindy from Kelso,” she said. “And to get that phone call, ‘Congrats, you’re a national digital principal’ oh my goodness, it was so exciting.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principals also named Marcus Belin of Huntley High School, Ill.; and Trevor Goertzen of Spring Hill Middle School, Kan., as digital principals of the year for going “above and beyond in their work using technology to support teaching and learning, bolster student achievement and enhance their own leadership.”
Association Executive Officer Ronn Nozoe said in a press release that while the “education landscape shifted dramatically this past year, with principals everywhere embracing innovation and technology to adapt to their changing circumstances,” the three chosen principals “successfully supported their students and staff members through innovative solutions, and their schools greatly benefited from their leadership, which is needed now more than ever.”
Sholtys-Cromwell was named principal at the Academy last year after seven years as an assistant principal at Coweeman Middle School and 13 years as a principal at Butler Acres Elementary School.
“Being a principal is the best job in the world, but it can be tough,” she said. “But the reward far outweighs the stress and the hours.”
As a digital principal of the year, Sholtys-Cromwell will be flown to Washington, D.C. to be recognized, featured in national education publications and to take part in professional development speaking opportunities throughout the year.
“It’s so humbling,” she said. “It’s been a humbling whirlwind of a week since I got announced.”
Kelso School District Superintendent Mary Beth Tack said she was “thrilled to see Cindy’s dedication to our Kelso students and families, her commitment to excellence, and her passion for Alternative Learning Experiences acknowledged with this highly deserved honor on the national level.”
Sholtys-Cromwell focused on expanding the Academy to accommodate kindergarten through 12th-grade students; on training teachers to take on new, remote roles; and on making sure all students had Chromebooks and internet access.
“Being a virtual school you have to make sure that kids have the Chromebook and they understand how to use the software,” she said.
At the start of the year, staff met with every student to pick up the Chromebook and walk them through how to use it.
Staff also needed training because many teachers had not taught virtually before, and they also needed to ensure all the paperwork that comes with being an alternative school was completed, Sholtys-Cromwell said.
“I was training teachers to make sure we were getting it right on the paperwork side, the platform side and passing that on to our families,” she said. “And I had to do it really quick.”
While that made for a fast-paced start to the year, Sholtys-Cromwell said “everybody jumped in” to make sure students were getting the best education possible. Moving forward, Sholtys-Cromwell said she wants to make “KVA the best school it possibly can be” by taking a step back after the COVID-19 year and seeing what can be improved.
“Having a solid, full-time staff under the same roof is a huge blessing to be able to dig in and support our families,” she said. “I just want to take KVA to the next level.”
Personally, her goal is “to try to enjoy this year” as a national digital principal.
“I just want to enjoy it and cherish it and hopefully be able to inspire some principals along the way,” she said.