Clovis principal receives top recognition from U.S. Department of Education

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Out of more than 100,000 school principals in the United States, just a few share the nation’s top award for school leaders, and Clovis Unified School District’s Liberty Elementary principal, George Petersen, is one of them. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced ten principals will be honored this year with the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. 

Petersen is the only California principal selected for the award, he joins only nine other private and public school principals selected from the nation’s 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools to receive the award. Students and parents say Mr. Petersen is the best and deserves this recognition.

Mr. Petersen, of course very modest saying it’s a team effort. We caught up with him on Pajama Day. The man getting the pie in the face is Mr. Petersen.

He’s been with the district for more than 30 years and the principal at Liberty Elementary School in Clovis for more than a decade.

Mr. Petersen is one of the reasons students love going to school.

“He’s super funny, yeah he really is,” says Sierra Elford, a Liberty Elementary student.”He’ll tape himself to the wall,” says Bailey Bloom, a Liberty Elementary student.

This week the man who’s super funny was the only one from California to be named one of the top 10 principals across the United States by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Really, it’s a shared award, I call it the ‘we leadership’, there’s a lot of people that went into my training, my mentoring, my development, it is a great honor,” says Petersen.

The award comes after the school was nominated and selected by the State as one of the National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2019 for high performance.

“Our community, which means our families, our kids and our staff did a really good job on State Testing,” Petersen explained.

Parents say Petersen is much more than an educator. He’s a leader, friend, and motivator.

“Mr. Petersen has a really close relationship with all the kids here and even the kids that need someone to talk to he’s always here for them,” says Jo Bloom, a Liberty Elementary parent.

Petersen says that’s because he was inspired by one of his greatest teachers, his dad, who passed away last year.

Petersen says this award is in honor of him, “He was a teacher and administrator in this district so all I know is Clovis Unified.”

The Clovis West Alum says in 5th grade, he got all F’s.

“The principal went through this long list of very poor choices I’d been making, they even contemplated putting me in special ed,” he explained.

Petersen says his father quit his job and got a new one at Dry Creek Elementary and enrolled him there.

“That whole year he guided me, coached me, mentored me, got me turned around,” Petersen described.

Because of that, he excelled and ever since Petersen says he’s committed to doing the same for his students.

“You have to connect with kids, it’s the social-emotional before the academics, because if that kid knows you care, they’ll bond with you, so I always tell my staff first we got to win their hearts, we got to win their hearts,” He expressed.

Petersen will attend the award ceremony that will take place on November 14, in Washington D.C.

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