Secondary and Middle Grades Principals of the Year

July 11, 2017

ACSA is honoring this year’s Administrator of the Year Award recipients, and each is being profiled in EdCal leading up to the formal awards gala at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Jose.

From Nurse to Principal: Deborah Lynn Rowe, principal, James C. Enochs High School, Modesto City Schools

How did a hospital nurse become a high school principal? As Deborah Lynn Rowe tells it, “The knowledge and experience I have gained over the past 30 years in the medical and educational fields guided me to be in this place today…I do not lay the bricks, I just walk the path.”

Rowe has worked as a nurse and as a CTE/ROP classroom teacher and served as the principal of James C. Enochs High School in Modesto. She is also the recipient of ACSA’s 2017 Secondary Principal of the Year award. Under Rowe’s leadership, Enochs High has been recognized for the past three years as a U.S. News Silver Medal School, and boasts API and state assessment scores at the very top in Stanislaus County. Her mission for the school was developed collaboratively and is shared across the entire 73-acre campus. It focuses on providing top quality instruction for all students within a safe, responsible and respectful school culture.


To that end, Rowe helped to develop the Enochs Care Center to support the physical and social-emotional needs of students that follows the model laid out by the UCLA School Mental Health Project. The program was developed in 2013 and created a place that welcomed students who were often marginalized or disenfranchised. The Enochs Care Center was a recipient of the Golden Bell Award in 2016 and boasts an impressive number of community partnerships.

Rowe’s belief that “culture trumps strategy” is the backbone of innovative projects such as the Enochs Care Center and is reflected in another initiative developed by Rowe called “Enochs Culture.” Enochs Culture is a PBIS program designed to improve practices, values and beliefs to improve school culture and provide both students and staff with a sense of belonging and support in a safe and respectful learning environment. She is also the facilitator of the Enochs Eagles Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports student-based, parent booster programs.

Her interest in people and her commitment to valuing every member of her school community is the backbone of her leadership plan for Enochs. Rowe credits her background as a nurse with her investment in equity-building through school climate initiatives.

“As a nurse, I am acutely aware of student health concerns and the disenfranchisement experienced by students in public education due to the many barriers to learning,” she said. “As a teacher in the field of Career and Technical Education, I am able to under-stand the need for a rigorous and relevant curriculum for all students as they prepare for real-life high-skill, high-demand jobs. As a manager, I establish a creative, energetic team environment where members can achieve the greatest results together.”

In addition to her work with school culture, Rowe has also overseen the completion of a $2.5 million-dollar swimming pool project that took nearly eight years to complete. She fought hard for safer student parking and safer traffic patterns, working with a local architect and the district. She also supported the Peer Resource program in which upperclassmen are trained in conflict resolution to work with peers and help freshman in their transition to a high school environment.

Rowe credits her boundless energy and commitment to the inspiration she gets daily from the people she is surrounded by at Enochs.

“Above all, people inspire me more than anything,” she said. “I have always known seeing the best in others was the right way to approach life, but my experience as a principal has shown me firsthand how important this truly is. In our highly- charged assessment culture, bringing kindness to all circumstances is imperative.”

A devoted ACSA member, Rowe served on the 2016 Leadership Summit Planning Committee and attended the 2012 UCLA Principals’ Institute. She is in the process of completing the Personnel Administrators Academy and is an active participant in ACSA Legislative Action Days. She has served on a number of committees, including the Women’s Leadership Network and the Awards Committee, as well as being the Region 7 representative on the Secondary Education Council and the Legislative Policy Committee.

“ACSA changed my life, enlightened my understanding and gave me a voice in education,” Rowe said. “Ten years ago, I attended the UCLA Principals’ Institute, where I was asked to leap off a 40-foot pole as a trust exercise and to be reflective by considering, ‘What if I’m the problem.’ Since that first experience, ACSA has provided me with the professional development, networking and leadership skills necessary to become top in my field.”

Rowe will be honored at the upcoming 2017 Leadership Summit, the theme of which is “Leading Beyond Limits.” While her accomplishments seem limitless, she is always looking for her next challenge. She credits other women in positions of educational leadership among those who have inspired her to come this far.

“The women who have championed this path formerly inspire me to lead beyond existing limits because of what they did to create the trail I now climb,” Rowe said. “I model personal and professional ethics, have integrity, seek fairness and expect the same behavior from others. Through a cooperative attitude, good humor, and level-headed directness, I help facilitate situations that might otherwise be more confrontational. One of my own mentors told me to respect the principal chair and after many years I truly learned to appreciate the depths of this comment. Today, respecting the chair and trusting my faith has radicalized my wisdom, and will continue to draw me beyond my own limits.”

Rowe has recently accepted a new position with a new district for the 2017-18 school year. She is now the director 2, Educational Options Division in the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

The Job is Never Done: Ann Allen, McAuliffe Middle School, Los Alamitos USD

From supporting students to parent and community interactions, to managing staff and keeping a school running through the day-to-day operations and occasional crises that arise, it can be said that a principal has one of the most stressful and difficult jobs in a school community. This makes Ann Allen, principal of McAuliffe Middle School and winner of the 2017 ACSA Middle Grades Principal of the Year Award, even more impressive, given that she has worked with middle school students as a teacher, learning specialist, assistant principal and principal for more than 30 years. Those who have known her throughout her career are clear about one thing: Time has done nothing to diminish her drive, her passion and her commitment to serving students. As a new teacher, Allen notes that she would jump at the chance to learn new skills and improve on old ones.

Over the years, she credits this approach with an ability to eventually see the “bigger picture” options for her future, saying “rather than working with 200 kids and helping them have the finest educational experience possible, per-haps I could work with both teachers and students to affect over 1,200 kids.” And so, she did.

Ann began rising through the ranks early on. During her tenure at McAuliffe, the school has been recognized as a California Distinguished School, a California Gold Ribbon School, and a National Blue Ribbon School. In the last four years, 98 percent of the students attending McAuliffe have earned passing grades in every single subject, with 80 percent of those earning Honor Roll status.

It takes a tireless dedication to achieve those numbers – something Allen has in abundance. It is common to find Allen in classrooms or on campus, spending her day with the people who matter most to her – the students. She knows them by name and forms long-term relation-ships with their families, leading many former students to eventually enroll their own children at McAuliffe. Allen talks about using her own visibility on the school site as a significant part of her own efforts to inspire leadership and community.


“I am visible in classrooms and during passing periods, conduct regular and frequent walk-throughs and help to supervise students. I greet students every morning as they get off the bus, talk to kids during pass-ing periods and work at the bike rack after school to make sure kids get home safely,” she said.

In addition to her work with students, Allen is extremely active with the PTA, meeting with the president, the board and attending monthly meetings to discuss instruction, activities, school issues and fundraising. She provides guest speakers at each PTA meeting to better educate parents regard-ing current issues in education (LGBTQ laws, ASB, educational legislation updates), school-wide programs (honors programs, interventions, activities, STEAM education, career education), and district programs (special education, LCAP/LCFF), Allen said.

She pointed out that she also works collaboratively with the PTA and school staff to provide financial assistance to members of the community who are living in poverty. Her attention to community, equity and school climate are remarked upon by all who know her exceptional leadership.

Known for her efforts on behalf of creating an open and welcoming school culture, Allen opens every meeting with thank you’s handed out to staff regarding their personal efforts and achievements on behalf of students, the school and the community at large. She is lauded by staff and teachers for never asking them to do something she isn’t willing to do herself – including meeting with students who need support every Saturday morning. During this time, students receive one-to-one academic counseling, set goals with the help of a caring administration, and receive help with missing assignments.

“I have, and always will have, the heart of a teacher – and everyone knows it,” she said. “I try to lead by example and model what I want to see in others; I try to empower others by modeling trust and offering guidance when needed. I strive to make staff members feel valued and respected. I cheer staff on and celebrate them, so that they will all want to be a part of our team, and they work hard and bring their best to bring honor to the ‘family’ we have created. We all share in the successes of our students, staff and administration because everyone is a contributor.”

Allen has been a member of ACSA for the last five years, since joining the administration team in her district. She credits ACSA with being an important part of her development and is an active member, representing Region 17 at events regularly.

“I support and value the professional development and training opportunities ACSA provides, and have enjoyed network-ing with other administrators throughout the region,” she said.

All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored at the President’s Gala and Awards Celebration during Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 3. To register, go to

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