Florida TaxWatch publishes ‘best practices’ report distilling award-winning principals’ wisdom

TaxWatch’s Principal Leadership Award winners came together to talk about how high-risk schools can excel.

Highlighting the attributes of effective school leadership, Florida TaxWatch published a report on best practices from school principals who the government watchdog has determined are the best at what they do.

Five principals from across the state, ranging from elementary to high school, were awarded TaxWatch’s Principal Leadership Award and they came together in May to discuss how to make meaningful change at their at-risk schools.

The report came out Tuesday.

“While this report is not a ‘deep dive’ into the ideas and issues presented by the 2022-23 winning principals, Florida TaxWatch proudly presents it as a starting point for further discussion among those in the education realm, particularly policymakers,” said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.

“We stand ready to assist them as appropriate before, during, and after the upcoming 2024 Legislative Session.”

Every year, since 2013, Florida TaxWatch has analyzed student data over several consecutive years and determined the highest-performing schools despite high-risk factors, such as a large percentage of the student body qualified to receive free or reduced price lunch.

The award-winning principals participating in the roundtable were South Bay’s Rosenwald Elementary School Principal Bruce Hightower, Lake City’s Richardson Sixth Grade Academy Principal Lisa Lee, Palm Bay Elementary Principal Michael Mahl, Chiefland Middle High School Principal Matthew McLelland and Miami Northwestern High Principal Dr. Bridgette Tate-Wyche.

For two hours, they talked about attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, developing teachers, building a productive school culture, fostering relationships with stakeholders beyond the building, and managing time and personnel.

The report distilled some practices that make a difference, including:

— Being visible and available even after work hours and making it a practice to greet each student every morning.

— Identifying teachers’ best practices and making them a schoolwide practice.

— Attending student events at least six days a week.

— Putting the highest-performing teachers with the lowest-performing students.

— Telling teachers what’s expected before they get hired.

Calabro said effective principals are capable of improving student learning in a way that adds three months of learning per year.

“They are also uniquely capable of empowering and inspiring those around them — both students and teachers — which enables them to transform mediocre or even at-risk schools into great schools,” Calabro said, according to a news release.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 3, 2023 at 3:50 am

    Wonderful. Our children are protected and watched over daily by educators and education employees! Thank you

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn


This is default text for notification bar