Beaufort County schools superintendent Valerie Truesdale is the first recipient of the Women in School Leadership Award from the American Association of School Administrators, a prize created to recognize female administrators who make a difference in the lives of students.
She received the national award, sponsored by Farmers Insurance and AASA, at the professional organization's National Conference on Education on Friday in Denver. It comes with a $1,000 check and one-year membership to the organization.
"I'm humbled," Truesdale said.
A news release from AASA praised Truesdale's "passionate instructional leadership, her ardent advocacy of technology in the classroom and her community activism on behalf of education."
She was one of 51 candidates across the nation nominated for the award. About one-quarter of school superintendents are women, according to the AASA.
"Valerie embodies what is best in our school leaders," AASA executive director Daniel Domenech said in a news release. "She has the passion and the skill to get the job done. She makes things happen for kids."
Truesdale was hired in 2007 to lead the 20,000-student Beaufort County School District after four years as the superintendent in Oconee County.
AASA cited her focus on professional development and the use of technology in the district's classrooms, as well as the accelerated learning model she introduced at persistently under-performing, high-poverty schools. For those schools, the district extended the school year, recruited master teachers and set high goals for improvement.
A district-wide belief that all children can achieve at high levels has helped improve academics in Beaufort County, Truesdale said, citing the record 15 local schools recognized by the S.C. Department of Education this year for achievement on state-mandated tests.
"I challenged the principals to accelerate learning for all kids," she said. "And they did."
Adrienne Sutton, principal at M.C. Riley Elementary School, said Truesdale has improved consistency across the district to make sure all schools have rigorous expectations and adequate resources. She also has improved collaboration between the district's central office and its schools, Sutton said.
"We've become much more ... cohesive in our approach to instruction, our communication with each other and our relationships in the community," she said.