Florida TaxWatch, Prepaid College Foundation to increase PLA scholarships to 15
PLA winners. Photo courtesy Florida TaxWatch.

The organizations award 9 scholarships and honor 9 principals now.

Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation are nearly doubling a set of scholarships for students in poor communities.

The news came at a luncheon honoring some Principal Leadership Award (PLA) winners. Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said it’s critical to both recognize valuable teachers at Florida schools and to increase the ability to better students’ life trajectories.

Florida TaxWatch this year honored nine principals for leadership at schools. Winners included: Becky Wilkerson (Middleburg Elementary School), Mike Mahl (Palm Bay Elementary School), Bruce Hightower (Rosenwald Elementary School), Lisa Lee (Richardson Sixth Grade Academy), Edna Bailey (Oasis Middle School), Dr. Bridgette Tate-Wyche (Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center), Matthew McLelland (Chiefland Middle High School), Rolando Bailey (Evans High School) and Eugene Ford (Indian Ridge School).

Calabro said the awards are one of the only to recognize school administrators, as opposed to teachers.

“Leadership matters especially matters at the school level,” he said. “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that great principals can transform poor and mediocre schools, and that mediocre principals can take high-performing schools and drive them into the ground.”

Cynthia O’Connell, director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, said the awards next year will honor 15 principals.

That’s important for scholarships as well. Each principal selected as a PLA winner gets to pick a student at their school who will get a two-year full scholarship for college. The addition of more principals honored next year means 15 students will receive those scholarships.

“We believe in this program,” O’Connell said. “We are seeing a difference.”

Florida TaxWatch at the luncheon also announced four new institutes focused on policy arenas. A Workforce and Education Accountability Institute will now house the PLA awards.

Others will focus on Health and Aging, Modern Tax Policy, and Civic Engagement.

“This will have a focus on expanding things we’ve done in the past,” said Bob Nave, Florida TaxWatch senior vice president of Research.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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