MSA Principal of the Year Program

Congratulations to the Regional winners of the 2024 Principal of the Year:

Each week from March 7 until the MSA 2024 conference, we will feature one Regional POY in Magnet Minute and on the MSA Blog. Check back each week to learn more about each winner.

Region 1: Tanya Bates Howell

P.S. 349 – Magnet School for Leadership and Innovation through STEAM
NYC Community District 28
Learn more about Principal Howell


Region 3: Candice Jester

Kilpatrick Elementary School
Clayton County Public Schools


Region 5: Kimberly Kindred

Richardson West Junior High Arts and Technology Magnet
Richardson ISD

Region 2: Amy Dockter-Rozar

West Career and Technical Academy
Clark County School District


Region 4: Winston Pierce

Farmington Woods International Baccalaureate PYP Magnet Elementary School
Wake County Public School System


Region 6: Jamie Cole

Hyde Leadership and International Studies Magnet Elementary
Wichita Public Schools


Magnet Schools of America’s Magnet Principal of-the-Year (POY) Award annually recognizes an outstanding school leader who has succeeded in providing “innovative programs that promote equity, diversity, and academic excellence for students in magnet schools.”

The award honors a PreK through K-12 Magnet School Principal whose school is a member in good standing of MSA. Candidates must demonstrate excellence within the following criteria:

  • evidence of leadership in promoting equity and diversity among students and staff within the magnet school
  • evidence of leadership toward equitable academic success for all students
  • evidence of leadership in supporting the implementation and sustaining of an innovative magnet program, and
  • evidence of leadership within the district and the magnet community.

*Membership inquiries, please email OR call 202.824.0672


Nominees must be principals who:

  • Are currently serving as a principal at one or more PreK-12 or K-12 Magnet school(s) for a minimum of three (3) years;
  • Demonstrate and encourage curriculum creativity and innovation;
  • Foster cooperation between the school and the community;
  • Maintain a continuing dialogue with students and parents as well as faculty and staff;
  • Keep abreast of developments in the field of education;
  • Encourage team spirit;
  • Demonstrate leadership and exemplify commitment to equity and diversity in classrooms; and who
  • Maintain their position as magnet principal throughout the 2023-2024 school year; and attend the national conference of the subsequent year “to pass the torch.” (at the discounted host district rate)

All previous regional recipients are not eligible for three (3) years after being awarded.
All previous monetary recipients are not eligible for five (five) years after being awarded.


  • Nomination application for Principal of the Year must by submitted by the district Magnet Director.
  • Only MSA Members/Districts may submit candidate nominations.
  • Districts may submit only one candidate.
  • A letter of nomination explaining why the nominee is deserving of the award, signed and submitted with the online application at the time of submission.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation: including one from a parent, one from a community partner, AND one from a co-worker or administrator. Each letter must be signed and submitted/uploaded separately with the online application at the time of submission.

2023 National POY ◊ Joy Abernathy, Ph.D.

Joy Abernathy, Ph.D.

Villa del Rey Creative Sciences and Arts Magnet School
East Baton Rouge Parish School System
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Joy Abernathy-Dyer, Ph.D., Villa del Rey Creative Sciences and Arts Magnet School, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, LA – Awarded Magnet School Principal of the Year. Dr. Abernathy-Dyer is a forward thinker who has a big heart for our school, more specifically, the Magnet Program. Since the inception of the Magnet program, Villa del Rey has expanded and grown. Such growth and achievement is attributed to Dr. Abernathy-Dyer’s leadership.

My greatest education contribution and accomplishment as a magnet principal is bringing the Magnet Schools of Assistance Program to Villa del Rey Creative Sciences and Arts Magnet. As principal, we have implemented experiences in our labs offering robotics, outdoor classrooms, gardening, engineering, culinary, and renewable energy labs. – Joy Abernathy-Dyer, Ph.D.

2022 National POY ◊ Brendan Mims

Brendan Mims

MS 358 Magnet Schools for STEAM Exploration and Experiential Learning
NYC Community School District 28
Jamaica, New York

Brendan T. Mims is the founding principal of MS358 in Queens, NY. He founded MS358 to “motivate hearts, inspire minds, and change the world for the better.” He’s proud that through STEAM-based education and “passionate speaking, purposeful writing, and powerful presentation,” students can practice empathy and advocacy while proficiency rises. He believes that all students deserve a high-quality education and has worked to develop a culture that is inclusive, caring and committed to continual growth and excellence.

Principal Mims has developed a culture that is inclusive, caring, and dedicated to the idea that all students deserve a high quality education where they can thrive and achieve regardless of race, social status, gender, language, orientation, [nationality, religion, or ability. He works with outside organizations, arts partners, cultural institutions, higher education, and all school stakeholders to ensure that MS358 is a community where all students learn at high levels, feel welcomed and included, appreciate their own and other cultures, and work to promote justice and fairness in the school community and beyond.

2020 National POY ◊ Lisa Noffo

Lisa S. Noffo

Medical Academy for Science and Technology
Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Homestead, Florida

In only eight years, Principal Lisa Noffo has led the Medical Academy for Science and Technology (MAST@Homestead) to be one of the most diverse and successful magnet programs in the state. Having grown from only 68 students in 2010 to 775 students in 2019, the school boasts a 100% graduation rate for the last three classes and an ‘A’ rating in state accountability.

Noffo truly believes in the “Saber Family” and credits all faculty and staff as playing a part in student success. MAST@Homestead was designed to be the first medical research institute to provide opportunities to excel in mathematics and science. The school’s medical theme is evident in all courses, a reflection of the involvement and commitment of both teachers and Noffo’s leadership.

Having worked at magnet schools for the arts, humanities, and computer sciences previously, Noffo witnessed firsthand how themed magnet programs have an immense effect on student success. At MAST@Homestead, her work with community partners led to the creation of simulated labs that successfully provide medical experiences, such as the HALS human patient simulators. She has provided funding for Biomedical instructors to be trained through Project Lead the Way in human body systems, biomedical innovations, and biomedical interventions. Through her leadership and support, all the magnet academy lead teachers have been trained to become CPR Instructors, ensuring that all students are certified prior to graduation. By providing the latest technologies to her student body, students are able to identify human body parts using virtual dissections, simulated therapy consultations using Resusci Anne manikins, and integrate tools and software such as Polymerase Chain Reaction and Restriction Fragment length Polyphorism Gel Electrophoresis.

As principal, Noffo has impressed upon the faculty that the medical theme should be carried across the curriculum so that students are encouraged to find that their passion is interdisciplinary. But Noffo also invests in the growth of the district by serving as a mentor to other principals as well as aspiring leaders. She has increased community partnerships and contributes her time and skills to the Florida International University School of Engineering and Baptist Hospital Homestead, as well as non-profits such as Enfamilia, The Mexican American Council, and the Redland Migrant Association. Through these partnerships, students have been afforded guest lectures and benefit greatly from her endeavors outside the school. Under her leadership, MAST@Homestead has become a shining example of the positive impact on community involvement in student achievement.

2019 National POY ◊ Dr. Sabrina Suber

Dr. Sabrina Suber

Richland Northeast High School
Richland School District Two, Columbia, South Carolina

As the principal of Richland Northeast High School – an International Baccalaureate school, Dr. Sabrina Suber’s greatest educational contribution, and accomplishment is watching her students grow into global thinkers and problem solvers. Richland Northeast students come from a rich mix of backgrounds and cultures to create its inclusive community of learners, thinkers, growers, and believers.

Dr. Suber has been in a leadership position at Richland Northeast High School for the last 15 years and has been the principal for the previous eight years. The Horizon magnet program has been at Richland Northeast for over 25 years.

Under Dr. Suber’s leadership and guidance, Richland Northeast became an International Baccalaureate World School. Richland Northeast is also a Nationally Certified Magnet School and earned the MSA School of Excellence seal.

*Sponsored by American Education Solutions

2019 National POY ◊ Dr. Michael Lofton

Dr. Michael Lofton

Spring Hill High School
School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties
Columbia, South Carolina

Dr. Michael Lofton is the founding principal of Spring Hill High School, a career pathways magnet school in School District Five that offers five focus programs to students from grades 9-12, including Engineering, Entertainment, Entrepreneurial, Environmental Studies, and Exercise Science academies. Through these academies, students are immersed into high-tech, real-world environments which develop core knowledge, ignite imagination, and make learning relevant by using themed standards-based curriculum. This approach enhances college and career readiness by guiding students to make critical connections between their educational journey and the dynamic world. Spring Hill is the second highest-rated high school in the state, and its students consistently perform above state and national averages on SAT, ACT, and AP exams.

*Sponsored by American Education Solutions | Croton on Hudson, New York

Learn how to become a Nationally Certified Magnet School

Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.

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