Baltimore City principals to be honored at inaugural 'Heart of School' awards

A group of Baltimore city principals will be honored Monday night at an inaugural awards ceremony that launches a new investment in school leaders from the civic and business community.

The "Heart of the School Awards" will be held at the Hippodrome Theater, where five principals will be recognized for their efforts serving their students and strengthening their school communities. Eleven finalists emerged from a pool of 88 principals who collectively received 450 nominations.


The winning principals will receive a $2,500 cash prize to support needs at their school.

The program was launched by the Fund for Educational Excellence, and supported by more than 50 sponsors from the philanthropic community.


The awards are part of an evolving effort to build a culture of appreciation for principals in the city, and comes at a critical time for the school system as it undergoes its third leadership change in seven years that noted a more than 90 percent turnover among principals.

Proceeds from tonight's event will go to the Principal Support Fund, which will help principals fund projects at their schools.

The finalists for the awards are:

11 Principals Named 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 awardee in 2015. His culture has also led to an increase in enrollment from 230 to 500 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 in order 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, 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.



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