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Third Georgia educator recognized with national Terrel H. Bell award

MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Frick, GaDOE Communications Office,

Click here for Dr. Robinson's full bio

December 10, 2020 – Michael H. Robinson, principal of Martha Ellen Stillwell School for the Arts in Clayton County Schools, has been named the recipient of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. Robinson is one of 10 principals nationwide to receive the award, which is named for the second U.S. Secretary of Education and honors school leaders who are committed to education as a powerful and liberating force in people's lives.

“The ability to reimagine our public schools rests on the transformative leadership of principals like Dr. Robinson, who operate with vision, transparency, and a deep belief that every student matters and every student can succeed," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I congratulate him on this well-deserved national honor."  

The U.S. Department of Education, with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Association for Middle Level Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, presents the Bell Awards to principals of National Blue Ribbon Schools for their outstanding work and the vital role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances. This year's recipients were honored during the National Blue Ribbon Schools virtual awards ceremony November 12.

Dr. Robinson has served as principal at Clayton County's Martha Ellen Stillwell School for the Arts (MESSA) since 2014. With a total minority enrollment of 98 percent and 100 percent enrollment of students who are economically disadvantaged, MESSA needed a unique leader to bring the school's mission to life. Principal Robinson clearly articulated the mission and goals for the school and instilled in the school community his philosophy that all students can be successful when the support is there.

He created a collaborative effort between art and academic teachers and instituted cross-curricular English Language Arts initiatives along with opportunities for teachers to strengthen instructional rigor and relevance in everyday practice. Principal Robinson also instituted an open collaboration process in the school to ensure all voices were heard. One of the cornerstones of this collaboration is Stilwell's Leadership Retreat: each year prior to the start of school, students, parents, staff, and several community organizations work with the Administrative Team to reflect on the school's vision and goals. Using a collaborative process, all stakeholders engage in decision-making to impact the comprehensive school improvement plan and set the tone for the MESSA school community. Principal Robinson noted that when all stakeholders are engaged in setting the mission, vision, and goals in a collaborative way, it solidifies a shared and united culture “where students can learn, teachers can teach, and parents can be involved."

Students at MESSA have achieved on the local, national, and international levels in arts and academics.

Dr. Robinson is Georgia's third Bell Award recipient. James Heater, then principal of Esther F. Garrison School of Visual and Performing Arts in Savannah-Chatham County Schools, was honored in 2014. Dr. Traci Jackson, principal of Shirley Hills Elementary School in Houston County Schools, was recognized in 2011.​