Alma High School’s principal has been recognized by the national education association AdvancedEd for his leadership in higher education.

Jerry Valentine is the winner of the 2014 Excellence in Education Award for Arkansas. The award is presented in each state to "one individual who has demonstrated unparalleled leadership in promoting and advancing excellence in education," according to an AdvancedEd newsletter.

"I’m very honored and I’m humbled," Valentine said. "AdvancedEd is an outstanding educational organization. I’m very honored to represent Arkansas."

Alma Superintendent David Woolly acknowledged Valentine for his achievement at the Alma School District Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

"It’s very, very well deserved," Woolly said after the meeting. "Not only has Jerry been an outstanding high school principal, he’s been a real leader in high school education in Arkansas."

Woolly noted that AdvancedEd is the top national accreditation association for colleges and secondary schools.

Valentine has 34 years in education, all of them with Alma School District. He worked as a teacher and coach for two years and assistant principal for three years.

In 1986, Valentine took over as Alma High School principal. He has stayed in the position for nearly 30 years because he loves the job, he said.

"We have great kids, a very supportive community and outstanding teachers," Valentine said.

Valentine previously has been recognized as administrator of the year by the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, and the Arkansas secondary principal of the year award.

He will be awarded Sept. 24 at the AdvancED Arkansas annual fall conference at the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Rock.

Also during the Thursday meeting, school officials discussed their new school orientation program, Great Start, held Aug. 12.

As part of Great Start, Alma School District bused in students that would be attending a new school this year, including kindergarten students and kids in third, sixth and ninth grades.

Kids were fed a free breakfast and lunch and were able to tour the school, meet teachers and classmates, and learn about school programs before the first day of classes.

"One of the most intimidating things for a young person is that first day of school," Woolly said. "This was our effort to change that."

About 78 percent of kindergarten students and about 75 percent of the older students attended the orientation program, said Dee Ann Harris, Alma Primary School assistant principal.

"We let them learn their school, learn their teachers, learn their way around, and they had a great time," Woolly said.

Woolly also noted the success of the school’s bookmobile program, which added an extra day in the week to circuit its route and provided sack lunches to kids in the school district.

About 3,000 lunches were given out this year during the summer program, Woolly said.

"Not only are we feeding kids who many not be able to get a meal any other way, we’re getting books in their hands," Woolly said.

This was the third year for the program, and the second year it has offered sack lunches.