Administrator of the Year: Drawn to leadership

July 27, 2018 Staff Writer

Natalie Miller is the superintendent/principal of Latrobe Union SD, where she has served since 2014. Miller is also ACSA’s 2018 Superintendent/Principal of the Year.

She joined ACSA in 2002 and has been a dedicated and highly engaged member ever since. Her schools have been recognized with CSBA Golden Bell and Gold Ribbon awards, and she is known for setting the bar high. An annual speech writing and public speaking event is one example of the clear expectation for excellence she sets, as well as the tight-knit community she has helped to build. The entire community joins in celebrating the work of the students and to support the district.

Miller was always drawn to leadership.

“My desire to become an administrator started very early in my career,” she said. “When I first started teaching I found myself relating to the administrative side of education. I have always enjoyed being part of the planning and problem-solving processes that can bring about positive changes. And, I have always enjoyed collaboration with my colleagues. Realizing that I could ‘lead the learning,’ to borrow a title from Paula Rutherford, moving into the school office as the principal seemed like the path that I was meant to take.”

Miller is deeply committed to collaboration and empowers her staff to prioritize student needs above all else. As the superintendent/principal, her hands are on every facet of school culture and the instructional program. She monitors student learning through daily classroom walk-throughs and data collection and analysis. Her style of servant leadership is known to have opened doors of communication and to build an inclusive atmosphere among staff, students and families.

Miller credits her school community with being a source of inspiration.

“I am constantly inspired by the people around me,” she said. “A school site or district is a very exciting and hard-working environment. Teachers extend themselves on a daily basis to create amazing educational opportunities for their students. Students learn and grow and become empowered young adults right before our eyes. Support staff members make sure everyone else can do their job in the best possible way. The children, young adults, staff members, parents and community members whom I work with now and have worked with in the past, truly inspire me each and every day. My goal is to always work harder, accomplish more and try to keep up with all of these very talented people.”

Miller has overcome a variety of challenges in the operations and resources areas, always while prioritizing the safety of students and staff. Through water issues and rattlesnakes, she has always managed to keep everyone safe and the environment ideal for learning.

Miller participates as a board member of Schools for Sound Finance, where she represents the unique challenges of small rural, basic aid/community-funded districts. She is an active ACSA member at both the state and local levels, participating in training opportunities such as the Superintendent’s Academy and acting as a representative on the Elementary Education Council for Region 2 since 2011.

Her staff and colleagues are quick to applaud Miller’s approach.

She acknowledges that sometimes, innovation can be difficult.

“Risk can be the heart of improvement and improvement can be the soul of innovation,” Miller said. “At my school sites, I have worked hard to set a tone that opens the door to an innovative environment. I do that by connecting with staff members both professionally and personally and being willing to do any job on a campus. Any job! Once mutual respect and trust are a tangible and recognized element of the culture, real innovation has a chance to flourish. Shared leadership in an environment of trust and support is the innovation that helped create this success story.”


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