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Joseph A. Militello, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, tells Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette she is the 2007 National Middle School Principal of the Year on Monday at the school in Germany.
Joseph A. Militello, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, tells Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette she is the 2007 National Middle School Principal of the Year on Monday at the school in Germany. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Joseph A. Militello, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, tells Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette she is the 2007 National Middle School Principal of the Year on Monday at the school in Germany.
Joseph A. Militello, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, tells Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette she is the 2007 National Middle School Principal of the Year on Monday at the school in Germany. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)
Gen. David D. McKiernan, USAREUR commander, poses with Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette after a school assembly Monday.
Gen. David D. McKiernan, USAREUR commander, poses with Heidelberg Middle School principal Ellen Minette after a school assembly Monday. (Kevin Dougherty / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — It’s difficult to slip anything past Ellen Minette, principal at Heidelberg Middle School in Germany, according to her colleagues and associates.

But she was taken by surprise Monday.

“This is a very special occasion,” Ellen Minette, principal at Heidelberg Middle School in Germany, said Monday as she prepared to introduce Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of U.S. Army Europe.

As far as Minette knew, the general came to talk to the kids about the importance of being earnest with their schoolwork. She even asked them to be especially nice, since many of her bosses were in attendance.

Little did Minette know that it was all a guise — that she, not McKiernan, would be the focus of this large assembly. And that’s because the Department of Defense Dependents Schools educator has been named 2007 National Middle School Principal of the Year, chosen from administrators from every state.

Minette, 59, is the first Department of Defense Education Activity administrator to be so honored. The award, now in its 14th year, is sponsored by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“I don’t want to leave my school,” Minette said after the ceremony, concerned that the honor would take her away from her post.

There is an awards banquet next month in Washington and likely other duties or requirements, but it was telling that she so quickly began to wonder what impact (aside from a $5,000 grant) the award would have on her school.

“We are so proud of you,” Diana Ohman, director of DODDS-Europe, said to Minette.

A couple of pupils echoed Ohman’s comments.

“She’s really nice if you get in trouble,” said 11-year-old Alex Frese.

Alex and fellow sixth-grader Josie Steinacker-Olsztyn explained that Minette, above all else, is fair and just and interested in their well-being and development.

“I had no idea this was happening,” Minette said to the more than 700 people on hand in the school gym. “I truly believed that General McKiernan was going to speak to us about education, which I would’ve truly enjoyed.”

Instead, the general had the good sense to let the woman named best school administrator in the nation occupy center stage.

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