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Commissioner Stewart Announces Finalists for Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year

April 21, 2017

FDOE Press Office

Commissioner Stewart Announces Finalists for Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year 

Tallahassee, Fla., April 21, 2017 – Today, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart announced the finalists for Florida’s 2017 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership (Principal of the Year) and the Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award (Assistant Principal of the Year). The awards recognize principals and assistant principals for their exceptional contributions, and the statewide winners will be announced during a ceremony on June 21.

“I am pleased to recognize these six finalists for their tremendous dedication to the schools and communities they serve,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Principals and assistant principals create an environment for success in their schools, and I am grateful to each of these individuals for their service to Florida’s students. I am looking forward to celebrating them and announcing the statewide winners at the Dr. Brian Dassler Leadership Academy this summer.”

The three finalists for Principal of the Year are:

Dr. Earl Johnson, Matanzas High School, Flagler County

Dr. Earl Johnson has consistently sought innovative strategies to help his students reach their full potential. He initiated a partnership with Bethune Cookman University to offer dual enrollment courses, which has provided students with the opportunity to take accelerated courses while in high school. During his first year as the school’s principal, he increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses, expanded Career and Technical Education offerings and created an academic pathway to meet students’ needs. His colleagues commended him for being self-motivated, driven and dedicated to his profession.

Dr. Kevin Hendrick, Northeast High School, Pinellas County

Dr. Kevin Hendrick has been principal of Northeast High School for the past eight years, during which he developed and implemented a Finance Academy for students to earn industry certifications, increased Advanced Placement course offerings, improved the college enrollment rate and increased the school’s average ACT score. With the motto, “go high or go home,” he has encouraged every student to work toward college and career readiness.

Dr. Rachel Shelley, Booker High School, Sarasota County
With more than 28 years of experience in K-12 education, Dr. Rachel Shelley has been praised by her colleagues for her dedication to helping every student succeed and for relationship-based leadership. She motivates students with her mantra, “Every student is college and/or career bound.” Dr. Shelley is a hands-on instructional leader who understands the value of data, and she tracks her schools and students’ performance measures to help her make informed decisions.

The three finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year are:

Dr. Jacqueline Smith, Hollywood Hills High School, Broward County

Over the last 19 years, Dr. Jacqueline Smith has devoted her career to serving students and families by connecting academics with extracurricular activities. Examples of this include the Book Club, which allows students to practice their reading skills during lunch and the Spartan Academy, which provides tutoring and encourages parental involvement to help students expand their knowledge and successfully complete assignments. She is known for going to great lengths to help students prosper.  

Marlene Staughan, Mount Dora High School, Lake County

During her four years at Mount Dora High School, Marlene Staughan has provided valuable insight and expertise in creating a supportive and productive learning environment for the school’s students. In 2014-15, Mount Dora High School’s graduation rate increased by 6 percent, due in large part to Staughan tracking each senior individually. She is now working with Lake County’s district leaders to implement a county-wide graduation plan. Her principal praised her for going above and beyond and always being willing to help others.

Kelly Stedman, James Stephens International Academy, Lee County

Kelly Stedman has been the assistant principal at James Stephens International Academy for the last year. Her colleagues expressed an appreciation for her passionate support of students and the way in which she helps teachers grow. She stands out among her peers for her ability to make parents, staff and students feel valued and cared for. No matter what the situation, Stedman is described as always having a positive attitude and tackling every challenge she faces. 

The state’s top administrators will be named in a ceremony at the Dr. Brian Dassler Leadership Academy on June 21. The recipient of the 2017 Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 for their school. The 2017 Assistant Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and $500 for their school.

Candidates for these awards were nominated by the superintendent from their respective school districts. Complete lists of candidates from each district for both categories are available online: 2016-17 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership District Winners and 2016-17 Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award District Winners.

For more information about Florida’s educator recognition and recruitment programs, visit

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