Sallie Cone Elementary School’s assistant principal, Kathy Tilson, received a big surprise Thursday morning during what she thought was a typical school assembly.

Administrators put on a show for Tilson, convincing her that she was corralling children into the auditorium for a regularly scheduled presentation. She caught on to the gag, however, when the slideshow being presented began to feature more and more photos of her and her time as assistant principal.

When she made her way to the front of the crowd, Tilson was presented with an award naming her Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year in the state. Richard Abernathy, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, presented the award.

Tilson’s family and friends were in attendance along with Superintendent Greg Murry and other school district officials.

"Anyone in education knows the important role that an assistant principal plays," Murry said. "A building rises and falls with their leadership team.

"Kathy has played a major role at Sallie Cone Elementary School in causing the academic performance of their students to rise to new heights. I, along with hundreds of kids, stand indebted to Kathy for her great work."

Tilson has served as assistant principal for eight years. She leaves Conway for another job in the Jonesboro School District at the close of the school year.

Sallie Cone Principal Tina Antley said teachers and students will carry thoughts of Tilson into the new elementary building south of the city in the fall.

Antley said Tilson was instrumental in creating and stocking the "book room," which will move to Carolyn Lewis Elementary under the new name Kathy Tilson Book Room.

Abernathy said the award is given annually to an assistant principal "who is respected by students, colleagues, parents and the community at large." The distinction goes to someone who "shows strong educational leadership ... and maintains and orderly, purposeful learning environment."

Antley was the first to be named Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year by the association in the 2008-09 school year.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at