Leslie Morris & journalism students.

Not only are the East High School Quill and Scroll student publications directed by an award winning journalism teacher, the students who write those publications can now boast a journalism award winning principal.

East journalism teacher Natalie Niemeyer (2014 Journalism Education Association Rising Star) and her student staff nominated principal Leslie Morris for the Iowa High School Press Association’s Administrator of the Year. Today, Morris travels to Iowa City to accept the award at the IHSPA Fall Conference.

If you want to know why Morris is such a deserving recipient of the award, look no further than the nomination letter Niemeyer and her students sent to the IHSPA. Congratulations, Principal Morris!

Iowa High School Press Association,

It is with great pleasure that East High School Quill and Scroll publications staffs nominate East High School Principal, Leslie Morris, for the Iowa High School Press Association’s Administrator of the year. Ms. Morris has only been at East for two years, but her impact has been immense, especially for East’s student journalists.

Every day in 3060N during the last block of the day, either the Quill staff is scrambling to meet deadlines or the Scroll staff is quietly working on rough drafts. During this block, Ms. Morris stops by to say hello and talk with student journalists individually. She knows them. She knows what their jobs are. She knows what they like to write about. Her visits are never to assess the class, but to show support. “When Mrs. Morris comes into our classroom, she always has a smile on her face. She’s always excited to see what work we have done and she takes pride in seeing all of her students creating cool pages. She interacts with all of her students and makes sure we have the proper utensils to make our yearbook the best it can be,” 2017 graduate and Quill Editor-in-Chief, Keagan Dolphin, said.

A good way to describe Ms. Morris is a cheerleader. “When I told her I was bringing your staff cookies for surpassing your copy count goal, she cleared her calendar and insisted that she join me to personally congratulate students, too. She even invited her boss, Kathie Danielson to join us. She understands that showing off your successes makes the whole school look good,” Herff Jones Yearbook Representative Marc Havnen said.

Ms. Morris has an open door policy and makes student journalists feel comfortable when they come to her office for an interview. They know that they can ask her about anything without being shut down or treated unfairly. Ms. Morris knows that her students have First Amendment rights and she supports them exercising them freely and responsibly. Anytime there is a complaint or disagreement about the yearbook, for example, a senior photo omitted or a coach not happy about coverage, Ms. Morris always stands by student journalists. She confronts issues with an open mind and is always solution oriented. She was a big supporter of Quill staff as they had to make tough but necessary changes to the yearbook due to high the high cost of printing.

At East, 100 percent of students receive free breakfast and lunch. This socioeconomic circumstance creates barriers for our students to attend events that are not deemed “necessary.” East students have attended the Iowa Summer Journalism Workshops for the last 6 years, but scholarship money has not been available the last two years, leaving East students with no way to afford to attend camp. Ms. Morris stepped up and was able to fund 4 students to attend camp. This summer, she funded 8. “Having Ms. Morris’s help with camp made a huge impact on the success of the yearbook. Through her generosity I was able to get a greater insight to what it takes to create a yearbook during my time at camp. Without camp, I wouldn’t have been able to find new ideas and inspirations for our 2017 yearbook, ‘Perspectives,'” 2017 East Graduate and Quill Editor-and-Chief, Marie Demuth said.

Before Ms. Morris came to East, the East Scroll, which has been in publication since the 1930s was at risk of not being printed anymore due to lack of funding. After one meeting with Ms. Morris, she agreed to fully fund the cost of the paper as well as the Scroll’s SNO site. This support has allowed the Scroll staff to grow to over 25 staff members and given each one of us a place to publish our work, whether it be in print or online. Ms. Morris also has funded multiple trips to Iowa City for the IHSPA Fall Conference and allowed another journalism teacher, Ms. Williamson to attend in hopes of getting broadcast off and running at East. Ms. Morris funded a trip to Kansas City in 2016 so yearbook students could literally watch their yearbook get printed at the Herff Jones plant. Every time a student journalist or adviser sees Ms. Morris she says, “What do you need from me?”

East’s publications classes attract many students who are also taking Advanced Placement or college credit classes. This can sometimes create a scheduling conflict that can be hard for students to deal with. This was the case for Editor-in-Chief, Keagan Dolphin. “My junior year was Ms. Morris’ first year, so she didn’t even know who I was. Being the kind person that she is, she changed my schedule so that I could take 4 college classes and still be able to take yearbook. The counselors told me that there weren’t any spaces in the classes I needed to take and so she added me into them so that I could stay on track to graduate. My senior year, I decided that I needed to take Calculus for College but our school only had 1 section and it was the same time as yearbook. Mrs. Morris took it upon herself to give me an independent study to make sure that I took the math class that I needed and still was able to be an editor in chief of the yearbook.”

These are just a few examples of how Principal Leslie Morris has impacted student journalism at East High School. It would be hard to find an administrator in Iowa that is as deserving of this honor as Ms. Morris. Thank you for your consideration of this one-of-a-kind administrator.

Natalie Niemeyer, CJE
Des Moines East Publications Students & Adviser, Natalie Niemeyer

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