Dr. April Grace receives AASL Distinguished School Administrator Award

The Shawnee News-Star
Dr. April Grace.

Dr. April Grace, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools, is the recipient of the 2021 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Distinguished School Administrator Award. Sponsored by ProQuest, the $2,000 award recognizes and honors a school administrator who has made worthy contributions to the operations of exemplary school libraries and to advancing the role of the school library in the educational program.

“I am honored to receive the AASL Distinguished School Administrator Award,” said Dr. Grace. “More than 30 years in education have taught me the value of strong school libraries under the helm of qualified school librarians. School libraries are catalysts for creating transformative, inclusive learning environments, and every learner deserves a library. As someone who has the highest respect for school librarians as teachers, leaders, visionaries, and champions of equity, I am humbled to receive this award.”

“The committee believes that Dr. Grace provides school librarians in Shawnee Public Schools with the whole package,” shared Susan Hess, committee chair. “This includes financial and staffing support, flexible scheduling, and access to professional development opportunities. She believes that the school library is the central core and heartbeat of the school and says that ‘if we want all learners to receive an exceptional and equitable education, then all learners must have access to a fully funded library with a qualified school librarian.’”

Upon assuming the role of superintendent, Dr. Grace found every school library in the district operating with a 10 percent budget cut, both secondary schools were sharing one school librarian, most of the elementary schools operated with fixed schedules, and the district lacked a school library coordinator. Within her first four months, Dr. Grace vowed to hire full-time certified school librarians for the secondary schools. She also ensured the two secondary libraries employed full-time assistants to maintain flexible schedules. By Dr. Grace’s second year at Shawnee, library budgets returned to the full funding required by Oklahoma’s accreditation standards.

Dr. Grace was instrumental in the implementation of the AASL “National School Library Standards” for the district. She provided each school library with a print copy of the publication and insisted all Shawnee school librarians receive extensive training. All Shawnee principals were also trained on the new standards and trainings were completed even before the standards were officially adopted by the state of Oklahoma. Dr. Grace then created the position of a district-level school library services coordinator whose primary responsibility was to assist district school librarians in aligning their programs to the AASL “National School Library Standards.”

The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2021 AASL National Conference taking place Oct. 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.