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Florida TaxWatch Announces 2019-20 Principal Leadership Awards Winners

Principals from Broward, Collier, Duval, Lafayette, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Orange counties recognized

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida TaxWatch (FTW), joined by Florida State Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) and education leaders, announced the 2019-20 Principal Leadership Award (PLA) winners and recognized nine of Florida’s most effective leaders in high-risk K-12 public schools. This year’s winning principals, three each from elementary, middle and high schools, are from Broward, Collier, Duval, Lafayette, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Orange counties. Florida TaxWatch established the PLA program in 2014 to recognize and reward the work of principals and promote their unique practices throughout the state.

Florida State Senator Bill Montford said, “I was pleased to join Florida TaxWatch today to recognize outstanding principals that reflect thousands of dedicated and caring educators throughout Florida. Florida students benefit from the dedication and commitment of these individuals each and every day. It is an honor to take a moment today to say thank you. Thank you for the many hours they spend away from their families; for every basketball game, debate meeting, band practice and tutoring session after school. Thank you for the many family meals and celebrations missed to ensure every student has the opportunity to achieve success.” 

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro said, “At Florida TaxWatch, we believe that data, analytics, and quantifiable evidence of improvement is the best basis for measuring success. For five years, the Florida TaxWatch Principal Leadership Awards Program has served as the state’s only student performance data-driven recognition initiative that highlights our incredible principals and is helping to transform student academic achievement. Each principal awarded today is truly making a difference in their school, their community, and the education of Florida’s next generation. On behalf of Florida TaxWatch, I want to congratulate our 2019-20 Principal Leadership Award winners and thank them for their remarkable work to enhance the educations of their students.

Florida Department of Education Division of Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva said, “Florida is extremely fortunate to have educators that inspire students every day, and that is why we have made elevating and celebrating teachers and principals our first priority. We want to make sure we are doing all that we can to recruit and retain great educators and we will not stop working until every Florida student has the opportunity to get a world-class education and become productive, civically-minded members of society. I was honored to be included today as Florida TaxWatch recognized these much deserving and dedicated principals, and congratulate them on this distinguished award.”

Florida Department of Education Division of Public Schools Deputy Chancellor Dr. Paul Burns said, “As we continue to support Florida’s educators, especially our principals, Florida students are seeing greater results and educational quality in Florida keeps rising. Dedicating time and resources to their tireless efforts is key to advancing education in underserved communities. I would to thank Florida TaxWatch for continuing to champion great educators in our state.”

Florida Prepaid College Foundation Director Cindy O’Connell said, “Every day, the work of these dedicated Principals dictate which opportunities for success will be available to our children and how their educational experience will mold them into a future leader and productive member of our society. The Florida Prepaid College Foundation is proud to support the Principal Leadership Awards with the Foundation’s Academic A+ Challenge Match Scholarship Program.  We look forward to helping these nine students realize their potential, and we thank Florida TaxWatch for its commitment to highlighting the good works of these public servants and unyielding dedication to education in Florida.”

The nine 2019-20 Principal Leadership Award honorees are:

Elementary School Winners

Simaran BakshiWayman Academy of the Arts, Duval County

Anthony MarucciSomerset Academy Village, Broward County

Laura MendicinoHighlands Elementary School, Collier County

Middle School Winners

Osvaldo GarciaPassport Charter School, Orange County

Barbara SanchezLincoln-Marti International Campus, Miami-Dade County

Sadie Milliner-SmithJ.E.B. Stuart Middle School, Duval County

High School Winners

Teresa SantaloiMater Preparatory Academy, Miami-Dade County

Stewart HancockLafayette High School, Lafayette County

Marie TurchiaroPalm Beach Maritime Academy, Palm Beach County

The PLA program would not be possible without the support of FTW’s generous sponsors - The Florida Lottery, SunTrust Bank, Kyra Solutions, BrightStar Credit Union, Charter Communications, J.M. Rubin Foundation, Gulf Power, The Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Wells Fargo, Helios Education Foundation, Florida Trend, Verizon, and the Florida Press Association. For more information about the PLA Program and the 2019-20 winners, click here.

About Florida TaxWatch

As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute for forty years, the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, Florida TaxWatch, works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses. Florida TaxWatch is supported by voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants, and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled Florida TaxWatch to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit

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