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Press Release

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tom Butler
(850) 245-0413

Dr. Carlo Rodriguez Champion of School Choice Award Winners Announced
~ Award honors efforts of individuals to support and expand school choice in Florida ~

TAMPA – The winners of the first-ever Dr. Carlo Rodriguez Champion of School Choice Award were recognized today in Tampa by the State Board of Education. The Florida Public School Choice Consortium, in collaboration with the Nova Southeastern University Fischler School of Education, bestowed the award to MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent, and Carla McMullen, School Choice Specialist, Polk County Schools.

“The Dr. Carlo Rodriguez Champion of School Choice Award personifies the spirit of school choice in Florida,” said State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair. “I am proud to honor these two individuals who have worked so hard to expand educational opportunities for our students.”

As part of the award, Nova Southeastern University will grant each recipient a half scholarship at the Fischler School of Education – one at the doctoral level and one at the master’s level. The master’s scholarship is attuned to the needs of individuals who want to become successful leaders. The doctoral scholarship will assist in developing leadership skills that can be applied to the solutions of real problems in schools and other learning environments.

“This award brings recognition to those who lead the charge for public school choice in Florida,” said Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. “School Choice is a vital component of our education system and empowers parents to choose the type of education that best suits the needs of their child.”

The Florida Public School Choice Consortium sought to recognize a school district or individual who demonstrated exceptional commitment to establishing and expanding public school choice. The recipients were determined through a criterion review of nominations by an award committee representing multiple education agencies who work with various school options in Florida. The committee evaluated nominations based on an increase in the number of available school choice options, equitable practices for recruiting and enrolling students, innovative transportation plans, effective parent awareness and empowerment strategies and raising awareness of the benefits of school choice.

Dr. Carlo Rodriguez is the former executive director of the Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. He was a passionate advocate for improved education and choice for school children in Florida and across the nation. Carlo passed away in June 2007 and continues to serve as a beacon for public school choice in Florida.

For more information about school choice in Florida, please visit the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice at Visit for more information about the Florida Public School Choice Consortium.