National Distinguished Principals Program


The National Distinguished Principals Program was established in 1984 as an annual event to honor exemplary elementary and middle school principals who set the pace, character, and quality of the education children receive during their early school years.

The program is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), in corporate partnership with AIG. The recognition afforded by the NDP designation instills pride in principals' accomplishments and reinforces their continued leadership in helping children develop a lifelong love of learning.

One principal is chosen annually from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Principals representing private K-8 schools, Department of Defense Dependents' Schools, and the U.S. Department of State Overseas Schools are also recognized.

Florida public school principals are nominated by their peers and the final selection for Florida’s NDP is made by the Florida Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals. The Florida NDP Application deadline is April 15, 2022 by 5:00 p.m. Please submit the Application Packet and Nomination Form to, awards liasion

Criteria for Selection:

The following criteria reflect elements of existing requirements in current state principal recognition programs. Nominees must meet all criteria for selection as a National Distinguished Principal.

The selected principal:

  • is required to be a member of NAESP prior to submitting their application. Beginning in 2021, principals will need to be a member of NAESP for 3 years (be in their third year, not necessarily have completed the third year) at the time of nomination (May).
  • is an active principal at the time of nomination;
  • is an active principal of a school in which a commitment is clearly evident through programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and through firmly established community ties with parents and local business organizations;
  • has been an active principal for at least five years (be in their 5th year, not necessarily have completed the fifth year);
  • will be an active principal during the year in which he/she will receive the award;
  • shows a strong commitment to the principalship through active membership in professional associations including the Florida Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals (FAEMSP), the Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP);
  • is respected by students, colleagues, parents, and the community at large;
  • assumes an active role in his/her community, distinguishing himself/herself as a leader in civic, religious, or humanitarian activities;
  • shows strong educational leadership by setting high expectations for school staff and students;
  • maintains an orderly, purposeful learning environment.

Evidence of outstanding contributions to the well-being of the educational community include:

  • ways in which the principal's leadership has benefited curriculum, staff morale, community support, student interest, and the learning environment;
  • ways in which the principal provides creative leadership to inspire teachers and others to achieve and contribute to the school environment;
  • examples of service or achievements above and beyond what is expected in the usual school program;
  • ways in which others have acknowledged the principal as a force for positive change.
Nomination Information:

Nomination Form

Nominee's Application Packet

Application Packet and Nomination Form Due April 15 by 5:00 p.m.
Committee Review Selection Process April 18-29, 2021
Winner Announced Week of May 1
Florida Recognition at Discover '22 June 8, 2022


2020 National Distinguished Principal

Nigel D. Pillay
Otis A. Mason Elementary
Sait Johns County Schools