Leeds Middle School principal wins $15,000 leadership award

Stephanie Mitchell of Morris E. Leeds Middle School is a recipient of this year’s Lindback Distinguished Principal Leadership Award.

At a ceremony held Tuesday night at the Prince Music Theater, Mitchell was among seven principals presented with certificates and a $15,000 check that will benefit their school.

The award, which is in its second year, is funded by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation. The foundation seeks principals who demonstrate significant leadership in their schools and nominations from school board administrators, faculty, students and parents help pinpoint the winners.

“Too many times, principals are overlooked and under-recognized,” said Sheldon M. Bonovitz, trustee of the Lindback Foundation.

Supporting Mitchell

In a video presentation shown at the event, parents from the school, which is located in the Cedarbrook section of Northwest Philadelphia, lauded Mitchell as a principal who listens to their concerns.

A teacher spoke about Mitchell’s open-door policy; everyone is welcome in her office.

Students spoke about the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) fun day that she created, and how she inspires them to maintain their grades and practice community service.

“If it’s good for the children, then it’s good for me,” said Mitchell, noting that her job involves patience, specifically the need to take time to listen and encourage making decisions as a group.

A bigger prize

Originally, the award was $10,000, but it was increased by $5,000 this year. The funding can go towards things like smart boards, musical instruments, uniforms, computers or playground equipment.

“We have very specific criteria,” said David E. Loder, trustee of the Lindback Foundation. “We identify what they will do with the money for their school; they have to identify their needs.”

The Leeds prize money will go to purchase classroom technology, Mitchell said.

Since 1961, the foundation has recognized outstanding teachers in the area; the principal award stemmed from a perceived need for school leaders to be recognized in Philadelphia schools.

“It’s a way of rewarding folks who work hard,” said Loder.

Officals’ reaction

Among the school officials at the event was Robert McGrogan, president of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators.

“Despite many obstacles,” he said, “they are not only doing all the right things, they’re also doing things right.”

Thomas Knudsen, acting superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, expressed his appreciation for the recipients, saying that they are caring and compassionate people who “get results.”

Pedro Ramos, chairman of the school reform commission, spoke about the need to honor principals.

“School leadership is really at the center,” said Ramos. “It’s the future of our district and our city.”

In addition to Mitchell, this year’s award winners are Linda M. Carroll of Northeast High School, Dr. Ralph A. Burnley of George Nebinger Elementary in Bella Vista, Christine Borelli-Connor of John Webster Elementary in Kensington, Yvonne Jones of Motivation High School in Southwest Philadelphia, Norris Eldridge of Francis Scott Key Elementary in South Philadelphia and Christopher Lehmann of Science Leadership Academy in Center City.

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