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Tommy Byler, Louisiana Principal of the Year

Byler reacts to award

The Louisiana Department of Education honored Tommy Byler, principal of North Vermilion High School in Maurice, with the title of 2018 Louisiana State Principal of the Year at the Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Awards Gala in Baton Rouge.
Nominations for Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year have seen a 300 percent increase since 2014. Byler was one of three finalists at the awards ceremony on Friday. He now represents the 1,400 principals in Louisiana.
“It’s really a surreal feeling. I never expected it when this process started last October. Being Principal of the Year in Vermilion Parish is an honor in itself because we have such good people in our parish,” he said.
Byler has 26 years of experience in education. In the three years that he has been principal at North Vermilion High School, the school performance score rose from 92.9 to 119.0.
Byler said the title will not change how he runs the school. He spent Sunday afternoon at the school, preparing for its start on Aug. 10.
He will, however, use his platform as Principal of the Year to advocate on behalf of principals and public schools.
“It’s an opportunity to promote the profession of being a principal. I want to raise the bar of what people think about public education.”
He anticipates attending a few board meetings with the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and other committee meetings.
“I’m going to put myself out there to elevate the profession, but I’m not going to forget about my own school, North Vermilion, which is the reason I was honored.”
Byler said his upbringing led him to a career in education. His father was a teacher and coach. His teachers and coaches encouraged him.
He also credits Vermilion Parish school administrators for their support. “They allow me to do my job, and that’s pushing for kids and caring for kids.”
Byler leads by example. He said he would not make students do anything that he would not do.
He not only organizes community service initiatives but also participates alongside students.
Last year, students participated in flood relief efforts as well as a homeless awareness project. Though Byler spearheaded the project, he said students “just took it and ran with it.”
In addition, all student organizations include a community service component.
“I lead hard, but I love harder. I think it’s about showing kids that you really care for them. I’m going to be very involved with them. I’m going to be right there,” Byler said.
“We’re going to find the good in every single kid. Failure’s not an option.”
Jerome Puyau, Vermilion Parish School Board superintendent, said Byler deserved the honor.
“Mr. Byler exemplifies what it means to be a leader. Not only is he a teacher, a coach, a parent of Vermilion Parish children, but he is a phenomenal friend, colleague and role model for teachers and students,” Puyau said.
Denis Lotief, assistant principal at North Vermilion, was not surprised that Byler won the title.
“We see first-hand his energy and how much he has done and, moreover, how excited the kids are to come to school and be a part of it,” Lotief said.
“I think we would have been surprised if he hadn’t won. It’s more than the management or the education; it’s the fact that he believes in the kids, and they believe in him.”

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