Margaret (Margo) Kleven, assistant principal of Palmer Lake Elementary School in Brooklyn Park, has been named Minnesota’s 2016 National Outstanding Assistant Principal. Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) present this prestigious award.

Two of Kleven’s most significant accomplishments as an assistant principal include:

  • Working with school and district-level staff to increase Palmer Lake’s reading proficiency on the MCAs by almost 10%, the largest gain of all 17 elementary schools in Osseo Area Schools, and
  • Leading the implementation of the Positive Behavior Intervention Framework, which has increased positive relationships at Palmer Lake and reduced office discipline referrals by over 50%.

Kleven utilizes a variety of best practices that make her an outstanding assistant principal. In order to remain visible in her building, she “adopts” a single class for an entire week to generate a real connection with the teacher and students. Another way she connects with the day-to-day rhythm of the building is by facilitating or co-facilitating teacher collaborative work teams, which helps her “stay in the teaching game.”

“As we began to tackle the difficult work of not letting Palmer Lake get labeled as an at risk school, I simply began to bring my friends and colleagues into the action and decision making process,” said Kleven of the teacher-leaders at her school. “The work was too grand to not include multiple perspectives and energies; there was no way the administrative team could do it alone. We all needed to link arms and help with the heavy lifting. We needed additional leaders, and luckily, our building had a ton of prospects. Over the last three years, I have invited, pushed, encouraged, supported, hugged, coached, role played, practiced, cried with, scripted, and videotaped numerous staff members through their own journey of leadership.”

In her application for the award, Kleven wrote: “I believe in people. I believe in the work. And I believe we will change lives. We can no longer ‘hope’ we are providing successful learning opportunities for students… there is simply too much at stake, especially at a struggling school like Palmer Lake Elementary. We must dig deeper, and find proof that our energies are yielding the results we so desperately want. If our energies are not indicating results, then we must abandon what isn’t working, and determine what might work. I believe this is the area where I have had significant impact on student success – engaging in a best practice that ensures equitable student achievement. Throughout the last two years, I have worked with staff on successfully implementing the data team process… this data model looks at results on an individual student level, not just overall percentages. When teachers at Palmer Lake look at results, they see individual student faces, not generalized observations… Learning targets and goals eliminate the mystery for students, and puts students in the driver seat of their progress.”

“Margo is one of those rare individuals blessed with a broad and deep skill set that allows her to move effortlessly through the most complex of challenges,” said Dr. Tim Brown, principal at Rush Creek Elementary in Osseo Area Schools. “She has countless tools and strategies to both frame a situation and coach and empower both adults and students to own, and often solve, their own problems.”

Billy Chan, principal of Palmer Lake Elementary School, said of Kleven in his letter of recommendation, “Her commitment to enhance and change lives, through the field of education, has unfolded in a unique career path: mathematics educator, q-comp coordinator, and administration. Margo has had experience at both the system and building level, and she leverages this multidimensional perspective on a daily basis.” He continued, “Because of her willingness to be a learner, Margo maintains high credibility with our staff. By being vulnerable herself, she silently invites others to take risks, creating a collaborative and progressive culture.”

Chan said Kleven exemplifies quality leadership by inspiring others for the greater good.

“She develops meaningful relationships, works collaboratively, is a reflective practitioner, a problem solver, and provides a clear sense of purpose for her work,” said Chan. “It is when you couple this with a caring heart and her infectious sense of humor, that you realize you may just have the National Outstanding Assistant Principal of the year.”

Kleven is one of more than ten district employees recognized with the highest state honors for their profession during the past three years.

Kleven's award marks the second time in three years that an Osseo Area Schools assistant principal has been named Minnesota's National Outstanding Assistant Principal. Toni Beckler, current principal of Woodland Elementary, was similarly honored in 2013.

 — Published Dec. 15, 2015