SIPA Names Harrisonburg Principal Administrator of the Year


Harrisonburg High School principal Cynthia Prieto received the 2015 Dr. Kay Phillips Administrator of the Year Award at the Southern Interscholastic Press Association annual convention held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina February 27 – March 1.

The award recognizes administrators who support more than one publication, who nurture the principles of scholastic journalism who support the needs of both the programs and the advisers at their school.

Prieto has been a proactive supporter of scholastic journalism at HHS since her arrival last July. From the start she has had an impact on media at the school. In early August, students rolled out a plan to combine media forces and work together to grow HHS Media, a combination of the newspaper, online, yearbook and broadcasting programs. The students gave a presentation for our school administrative team as well as our superintendent and his staff, giving each of them a copy of Quill and Scroll’s Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Media. Prieto read her copy. She welcomed student reporters into her office any time. She wasn’t crazy about every story the students were printing, posting or broadcasting, but she let it happen because she sees scholastic media as an unbelievable learning opportunity.

She supported the students when fellow faculty members ran to her to complain about stories they didn’t like. Just a few weeks into this new job, Prieto made the commitment to travel with students to the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Washington, D.C. Not only did she agree to chaperone, but she also worked with HCPS Superintendent, Dr. Scott Kizner, and HHS print editor-in-chief Mia Karr to develop a presentation for a session at the convention entitled How to Get Along with Your Administration.

Both Prieto and Kizner enthusiastically defend scholastic press rights. While both Prieto and Kizner aren’t crazy about mistakes being made in HHS media, they do understand that this is still an educational arena and that students learn from their mistakes. They support students taking risks and they are 100 percent behind the program constantly evolving and improving.

During the fall convention in D.C., Prieto didn’t just give a presentation, she gave so much more. She got involved with the kids and their classes. She attended both adviser luncheons and volunteered to jump in and help where she could with the convention. She and Kizner voluntarily signed up for and attended an informal conversational meeting with JEA President Mark Newton to discuss what administrators across the country could do to change the relationship between administrators and scholastic journalists in high schools across America. Prieto came away from that meeting inspired by student journalists and inspired to help other administrators get it.

Prieto accepted her award during the Saturday evening banquet of the SIPA convention.