May 20, 2014

The ‘biggest surprise party’ of her life

Bates named among top middle school principals

CHATSWORTH — Ardith Bates, principal of Gladden Middle School, was told there was a “situation” in the school gym that needed her attention, she said. She expected maybe something bad. Then she got some of the best news she says she has ever heard.

“It’s kind of like I just came to the biggest surprise party of my life,” she said between tears.

Bates was named the National Distinguished Middle Level Principal of the Year for 2014 by the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals (GAMSP).

“It’s a huge deal,” she said. “I’m so grateful. I just love the kids and the teachers and the people I work with so much. I mean, this is so huge to me. This is one of those things you work your entire career for. It’s the highest level that I could achieve as a principal.”

Bob Heaberlin, executive director of GAMSP, said picking Bates only came after a tough selection process. One thing that stood out to the selection committee, he said, was Bates’ “long list” of partnering the school with outside community organizations.

“She’s on a national level now,” Heaberlin said. “It’s not about one good year, not about a popularity contest. It’s about are you what you say you are.”

Bates, who is also set to serve as the president of GAMSP next year, was separately selected to join the Standing Committee of Principals for the National Assessment of Educational Progress last month. That group of nine principals from across the nation will be frequenting Washington, D.C. to help give principals a voice in top-level discussions such as teacher assessment and school accountability.

“She is one of the most outstanding leaders in the state. Period,” Heaberlin said of Bates. “All of this for her — this is big time.”

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