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The Heart of the School Awards, a community-wide initiative to recognize the role principals play in the success of schools, has selected 11 finalists from the Baltimore City Public Schools. The inaugural awards celebration, on Monday, May 23 at the Hippodrome Theater, will honor all Baltimore City Public School principals, recognize the 11 finalists, and announce five winners selected for their innovation and leadership.

The Heart of the School Awards is funded and supported by more than 50 sponsors and supporters from the business and philanthropic communities, and is administered by the Fund for Educational Excellence, a non-profit organization that supports innovation that increases student achievement in city schools.
The five award winners will each receive a $2,500 cash award to support school needs. More than 450 nominations for 88 principals were submitted by teachers, parents, students and community partners.
The Heart of the School Awards Finalists
Federico Adams
Six years at William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School in Sandtown.
Frederico comes from a family of Baltimore City Public Schools principals. He makes sure he is familiar with each student’s situation outside of school and pushes them to explore their individual interests. Among his innovative initiatives are ensuring that each of his students visits a college campus by third grade.
Chris Battaglia
Five years at Benjamin Franklin High School at Masonville Cove.
Chris has instilled a culture of community-wide caring and support, transforming the school from one that almost closed in 2008 and 2011 into a National Community School award-winner in 2015. His culture has also led to an increase in enrollment from 230 to 500 students since he has been principal.
Tonya Combs-Redd
Three years at Yorkwood Elementary School in Loch Raven
Tonya recognizes the importance of communication. She hears and responds to the desires and needs of her school to build trust within the community. At the beginning of her tenure, she brought the school community together to develop a vision and mission statement for the school. Each year she invites everyone back to revisit and make adjustments as needed.
Tamika Daniels
Two years at George W.F. McMechen High School in Dorchester/Ashburton
As principal of a specialized high school that serves students with disabilities, Tamika has fostered relationships with local businesses to provide job shadowing opportunities. Identifying and responding to the needs of her students, she also built a sensory room where students who are experiencing high anxiety can relax.
James Dendinger
Eight years at Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School in Federal Hill
When James became principal, there were three parents in the Parent Teacher Organization and 340 students in the school. Now, because of his hands-on leadership, his open-door policy with parents, and caring personality, meetings are regularly attended by 40-50 parents (with over 100 actively involved in PTO) and 550 students at the school.
Mary Donnelly
Fifteen years at John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School in East Highlandtown
Mary has served Baltimore City students for the past 42 years. She adapted her leadership style to address changing demographic shifts, including a large increase in both enrollment and percentage of students who speak English as a second language. Her tireless efforts have kept her school a welcoming and safe space for all children and families.
Job Grotsky
Three years at Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School in Bolton Hill
Job brings a relentless positivity to his school and is very visible in the community. He regularly greets parents and students during drop-off in the morning and can even be found on the school grounds, installing benches and flower boxes on the weekends.
Najib Jammal
Six years at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Lakeland
Najib is an active leader who addresses the varied needs of his students. He develops deep partnerships, including one with Northrup Grumman to support the school’s work in building a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) learning lab with University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Amber Kilcoyne
Two years at Medfield Heights Elementary School in Medfield
Amber excels at assessing and addressing the needs of her students, who hail from 19 different countries and have varying degrees of academic and non-academic needs. One of her strategies for personalizing their learning experience is her Power Hour, during which every member of the staff provides reading-level appropriate intervention every day for every child.
Rochelle Machado
Three years at Arundel Elementary/Middle School in Cherry Hill
Rochelle strongly believes in the importance of praise, which she demonstrates through a board at the school’s main entrance where teachers leave messages of praise for each other. The school also hosts monthly “Chat and Chews” for parents to come together to talk about issues important to them.
Benjamin Mosley
Two years at Glenmount Elementary/Middle School in Hamilton
Benjamin is a leader with a constant focus on what is best for his students. Under his leadership, his school has increased parental involvement by establishing programs that treat parents as partners who play a vital part in the decision making for the school. He also increased the amount of student activities available, including the creation of a Homecoming Week for the school.
Proceeds from the May 23 event will go to the Principal Support Fund, which funds principal-driven projects that lead to an improved culture for schools and greater success for students. The Principal Support Fund will fund a wide variety of projects such as: professional development for principals and staff; motivational programs for students and schools; events and speakers.
The Heart of the School Awards celebration will be held on Monday, May 23, 2016 at Hippodrome Theatre, at 12 N Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD 21201. Doors will open at 6pm. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here:
For more information about the 11 finalists and The Heart of the School Awards, visit
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