Three metro area principals are finalists in this year's Minnesota National Distinguished Principal recognition: Tim Bell, principal at Five Hawks Elementary School in Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools, Brad Gustafson, principal at Greenwood Elementary School in Wayzata Public Schools and Joey Page, principal at Richfield STEM Elementary School in Richfield Public Schools.

The award honors outstanding elementary and middle school principals, according to the Minnesota Elementary School Principals' Association's website. That group partners with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and insurance agency VALIC to sponsor the award.

Public school principals are nominated by their peers in home states, the website said. One winning principal is chosen from each state and Washington, D.C. 

Paul Helberg, principal of Cherry View Elementary in Lakeville, wrote Bell's nomination letter, calling him a great collaborator and a principal who "goes above and beyond to create a welcoming environment in his school." Bell is also a member of the Laker Education Foundation and Prior Lake Rotary.

The district's website noted that Bell has dyed his hair pink and camped out in a canoe to reward students for attaining goals.

Gustafson was nominated by Mark French, the Minnesota 2015 National Distinguished Principal and principal at Rice Lake Elementary in Osseo schools. "He has implemented programs at his school that engage students, support staff members, and involve the community," French wrote in his nominating letter. He mentioned that Gustafson shares skills and resources through social media, helped strengthen French's technology integration and taught him applications.

Page had nomination letters from several members of the Richfield community. In his letter, superintendent Steven Unowsky called him a "top performer" in principal evaluation and MCA results. Page has also won statewide awards for being an exceptional Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports model school. 

Page has formed relationships with diverse families and "fostered educational innovation among his staff," according to a letter from Richfield board chair Peter Toensing. 

The three finalists will be interviewed April 22 before the winner is chosen.