Standing out above the rest… Wright named first-ever Tennessee principal recognized as a Terrell H. Bell Award winner

Published 10:42 am Thursday, October 15, 2020

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Anyone that knows West Side Principal John Wright knows of his comical side and sense of humor when it comes to costumes he has worn while competing in running events as well as school dress-up days.

However, when it comes to education, Mr. Wright is a no-nonsense leader who values making sure that all students that pass through the halls of West Side have the opportunity to have the world of education open up new and challenging paths as they progress on the road through the educational process while teaching them to believe in their self-worth.

For his resilience and focus in leading his West Side faculty and staff as well as getting the buy-in of the West Side community, Wright was recently named a 2020 Terrell H. Bell Award winner – the first time a principal in Tennessee has been given that high distinction.

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According to a United States Government website focused on the award stated, “Principals chosen as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients have transformed their schools.

“Their vision and collaborative leadership styles have produced outstanding results for all of their students to develop academically, emotionally, physically, socially, and culturally. These principals have shown that with effective leadership, skilled teaching, and high expectations, all students can learn.”

Wright was recognized during Wednesday’s Blue Ribbon School luncheon at the school.

“For the past eight years, we have been blessed to have Mr. Wright at our helm. Not many men nor women for that matter would be able to endure us for that many years,” stated Dr. Tammy Markland.

“We want to celebrate our accomplishments and Mr. Wright is part of us and I want to take a minute to celebrate him.

“Mr. Wright was most recently recognized as a 2020 recipient of the Terrell H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. He was one of 10 leaders in the United States to receive this award however he is the first person in the state of Tennessee to ever receive this award,” Dr. Markland continued.

“The award is named in memory of former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell H. Bell.
Secretary Bell held education as his highest priority, trusting that all students would find it, as he had, their personal key to success. The award honors principals for their outstanding work and the vital role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances.

“Mr. Wright has committed to fostering successful teaching at West Side and does whatever it takes to help our students meet high standards. He believes education is a powerful and liberating force in people’s lives. He has shown us effective leadership and teaching at a firm conviction all students can learn.”

Earlier in the ceremony, Wright had shared how he had come to be a part of the West Side Elementary family first as a parent.

“I joined the West Side family back in 2003 as a parent and even then West Side had a tradition of academic excellence,” Wright said. “I camped out at the Central Office literally in a tent to get my son into Kindergarten here. I did this because I knew he would have a strong educational foundation.

“Both of my children came here and grew and learned to be a part of the West Side family of learning. This is my eighth year of being the principal and my goal is that every student has the same outstanding education as my children obtained here.

Wright went on to further state, “It’s more than just transferring knowledge. There has to be an environment that cultivates that high standard of learning, of love, and of acceptance. Every child needs to be good at something.

“Every child needs to belong to something and to have that environment and to do this takes a community of parents, students, teachers, assistants, secretaries, custodians, cafeteria workers, our central office staff, the community of Elizabethton, our legislators at the city level, the national level, and in Washington, D.C.

“It takes all those people. You guys all do this often without thanks.”

Wright told everyone in attendance that it was easy to be a great leader when you have great people supporting you.