Principal Dr. Gail Holder wins state Administrator of the Year award

Holder was honored by the Kansas Scholastic Press Association for her support of the journalism program


By Kathy Habiger

Smiling for a photo, members of the journalism program take a picture with principal Dr. Gail Holder after she won the 2023 Administrator of the Year award by the Kansas Scholastic Press Association.

Kate Haney, JAG editor-in-chief

Principal Dr. Gail Holder was named the 2023 Administrator of the Year by the Kansas Scholastic Press Association. The annual honor goes to an administrator who demonstrates consistent support for journalism programs, students and advisers.

KSPA is a non-profit organization composed of Kansas scholastic journalism students and their teachers. The organization is committed to excellence in journalism at all levels and views its focus as one of providing journalism education leadership for Kansas teachers and students. 

Principal Dr. Gail Holder reacts to the surpirise announcement that she was named the KSPA Administrator of the Year. (By Molly Morgan)

Each year, KSPA honors one administrator who demonstrates exceptional support for the journalism program at their school. The criteria for the award includes: supporting the First Amendment and the students’ rights to determine the content of their publications and broadcasts; providing financial support for student media; understanding the importance of journalism’s place in a school curriculum; encouraging academic and professional growth for students and teachers; and providing personal support and encouragement for students and teachers.

All of the nominations were judged by media professionals, and this year’s judge praised Holder for the many ways she supports journalism at Mill Valley High School

“Dr. Holder meets and exceeds all criteria set forth for the KSPA Administrator of the Year Award. Her encouragement and support for scholastic media outlets and for student expression model the leadership all such outlets need and deserve,” the judge said. “Dr. Holder is an administrator who values the role student journalism plays within the school community. Always advocating for the students’ right to make editorial decisions, Dr. Holder believes what’s important to students is important to her — even if it means meeting with parents to hear their grievances and explain the school’s support of student journalism and the Kansas Student Publications Act.”

Journalism advisers Kathy Habiger and Laurie Folsom nominated Holder based on the number of ways, both big and small, that Holder supports journalism at Mill Valley.

“These last three years have been particularly challenging for every educator at every level. For this reason and many more, having a supportive administrator can mean the difference between surviving and thriving in education. Dr. Gail Holder is one of those administrators who goes out of her way to support teachers and students. She recognizes and rewards the hard work of the journalism students at Mill Valley and will always support their right to determine their own content,” Habiger said in the nomination letter.

Journalism advisers Laurie Folsom and Kathy Habiger nominated Holder because of her support of high school journalism. (By Maggie Wieland)

Holder felt honored that Folsom and Habiger considered her a supportive administrator.

“It makes me feel very humble that I would even be nominated because I really feel like this is just who I want to be as a leader of a school. I want to be a person who makes everybody feel like they are the most important thing in the school,” Holder said. “I was very shocked and surprised but of course, above all, just incredibly honored to even be nominated. And then to win, that’s a huge deal. And I know how much work it takes just to nominate someone, and then to actually win. It is a really big deal to me.”

Overall, Folsom appreciated the support Holder gives to the journalism department.

“I’m new at Mill Valley this year and I can already recognize the kind of support that Dr. Holder gives us and our broadcast journalism program. It’s what I’m looking for in an administration,” Folsom said. “When Mrs. Habiger asked me to join in on the nomination with her, it was not even a question.” 

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