Principal of the Year Program

Principal of the Year Program

The Indiana Association of School Principals annually recognizes outstanding school leaders in each of the 12 Indiana districts who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students. These principals are acknowledged by their peers for the exemplary contributions they have made to the profession.

2018 Principals of the Year

Mark Heiden

Mark is the principal at Creekside Elementary School for Franklin Community Schools.  When he joined Creekside as the principal in 2009, he found a building full of great teachers and staff but reeling after several years of falling test scores. Mark says, “Though I was entirely new to the job of being a building leader, I was excited to get to work and over these now nine years here at Creekside WE TOGETHER have changed the school culture to a growing and collaborative culture that lives up to our We Are Family motto.” The “We Are Family” motto shines through all aspects of Creekside, from the amazing PTO to the beautiful building. Over these past years, Creekside has gone from few student clubs and academic teams to Spell Bowl, MATH Bowl, Science Bowl, Destination Imagination, STEM Clubs for girls, Running Clubs, LEGO Clubs, Bionomics Club, and more. Creekside’s nonexistent school counseling program is now a nationally recognized IDOE Gold Star and ASCA RAMP program that does wonderful proactive and reactive school counseling work for students. Creekside has earned many A school letter grades after a D-equivalent when Mark arrived in 2009. According to Mark, “Creekside has become the school that we all wanted for it to become over these past years, and I am so proud to have been the building leader that has led and facilitated this transformation from good to great. We Are Family!

Destiny is the principal at South Ripley Junior High School. Destiny’s proudest moment came with a call from the DOE. She said, “As testing coordinator of the corporation … I had no idea what I was about to hear.” What she heard was that her school had been chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School by the state of Indiana! Destiny went on to say that “There are no words to describe how very proud I was of our staff, students, and community. SRJHS has a free/reduced lunch rate of over 60%, and our students and staff had just proved that EVERY child can be successful.” During the ceremony, Destiny used a Google hangout with her students so they could feel a part of the celebration in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Destiny is proud of receiving an IDOE Promising Practices award for the Advisory program. In the program, each class performs a service learning project during the year. Some projects have included pulling weeds, picking up trash, and (most notably) delivering gently-used books to the town’s free mini-libraries. Most recently, South Ripley Junior High School was awarded the Champions In The Middle Designation by the partnership of Special Olympics Indiana and the IHSAA.  She related that “my staff is small, but they are mighty.  I know that they work for kids and always do what is best for them… I cannot wait to see what is in store for SRJHS in the future.”

Destiny Rutzel
South Ripley Junior High School, Versailles
Bruce Jennings
Bremen High School, Bremen

Bruce has served as Bremen High School’s principal for 11 years. Previously, he was an assistant principal and science teacher at Bremen, and a science teacher at Knox Public Schools. Additionally, Bruce has served his community as a Kiwanis officer, a member of the Marshall County Community Foundation, and as a charter member and vice-president of the Bremen Dollars for Scholars Organization. He has also been a part of the Riley Children’s Hospital Kids Sharing and Caring Committee for the past several years. For Bruce, “every day is a professional development day” through his networking with colleagues, volunteering as an advisor with Indiana University’s Educational Leadership Program, serving on the Indiana ACT Council, and leading a weekly book study on Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens with all of his freshmen students. At Bremen, Bruce has begun several new traditions, such as an Academic Lettering System and an Annual Leadership Breakfast. His awards and honors include the Ernestine M. Raclin Distinguished Leadership award, the Leadership Marshall County Leader of the Year, and the Northern States Athletic Conference Distinguished Service award. Bruce stated that, “it’s also an honor for me to be married to the same woman for 35 years, and together we have two wonderful children and five fantastic grandchildren!”

2018 Assistant Principal of the Year

Prior to becoming the assistant principal at Griffith High School, Delincia Smith was a business teacher at Griffith and at East Chicago Central High School.  In her community, Delincia has been involved with Clean Up Griffith Day, the Northwest Urban League, the East Public Schools Education Foundation, and the New Tabernacle Baptist Church. Delincia has been honored with the Excellence in Education – Teacher of the Year award in 2005, and her school has been named a Best High School Bronze Medal winner by the 2018 News and World Report. Additionally, Griffith High School won the America’s Most Challenging Schools award in 2017. Delincia is proud of her achievements in developing and implementing several programs in her high school: Project Lead the Way, the Griffith Alternative Program, Best Buddies, a Middle School and High School Robotics Club, and Computer Science courses for students. Delincia’s principal says she “is the single biggest reason that we have been able to improve upon our school culture and climate. She commands respect and expects nothing less from our students and staff in all facets of their education.”

Delincia Smith
Griffith Middle School, Griffith

Principal of the Year News


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