Out of 4,000 magnet schools across the country, only one can boast having the National Principal of the Year in 2012 at its helm. That school is Normal Park Museum Magnet in Hamilton County, and the principal is Jill Levine.
At an awards ceremony in Dallas, Magnet Schools of America announced the designation in front of a crowd of 1,000 magnet school educators.
Ms. Levine said, “The moment they announced my name was just surreal and very emotional for me. This was definitely an unexpected, but incredible honor.
And since I represent the fourth generation of women educators in my family, I was especially proud to have my mother with me at the time.”
In January 2002, Ms. Levine sat across the desk from the Hamilton County superintendent and was given two very critical pieces of information – that she was being named principal of a school called Normal Park and that she was to turn Normal Park into a Museum Magnet School. There was no blueprint, no game plan and no set curriculum. Her job was to develop it all and then fill it with students.
Karla Riddle of the county schools said, "Over the past decade, Ms. Levine has led the transformation of Normal Park from a low-performing school into an innovative, exciting and challenging place of learning. Due to a dedicated staff, an unparalleled record of success and amazing community support the school has grown from less than 200 students in K–5th in 2002-2003, housed in a single building, to 830 students in 2011-2012 in Pre-K–8th on two campuses. The number of magnet applications consistently exceeds the number of students enrolled in the school. And even though Levine is often credited with these accomplishments, she is always quick to recognize others when it comes to the school’s success – specifically, her staff."
“I believe the key to student progress is arming teachers with strong curriculum knowledge and even stronger instructional strategies,” added Ms. Levine. “But Normal Park teachers also have something you cannot teach – a deep-rooted commitment and unparalleled resolve to providing the highest quality education for all students. And that’s what makes Normal Park so successful.”
Established in 2002, Normal Park Museum Magnet School is a public school in Hamilton County, Tennessee, which partners with seven area museums to enhance each student’s learning experience, including Creative Discovery Museum, Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga African-American Museum, Chattanooga Regional History Museum, Chattanooga Nature Center, Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Zoo. Housed in two historic facilities in North Chattanooga, it is unlike any other K-8 school in the United States. In 2005, Normal Park was awarded the Ronald P. Simpson award, Magnet Schools of America’s highest honor, and has received the prestigious Magnet School of Excellence Award every year since. Normal Park has also been named a J.F. Kennedy School of Distinction and has been featured by the U.S. Department of Education in two publications as well as its Doing What Works website. Normal Park is also a national model for schools across the country including Massachusetts, New York, California, Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, and even Quebec, Canada.