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Serious honor, plus perks

Mount Vernon's principal won the Leonard Miller Principal Leadership Award.

By LIBBY NELSON, Times Staff Writer
Published November 21, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG 

Recently, Mount Vernon Elementary School principal Peggy Pearson has had perks that don't usually come with the job.

A limousine ride to school, for example. A video of Mount Vernon's 430 students congratulating her. And a $10,000 check.

Pearson won the Leonard Miller Principal Leadership Award from the Council for Educational Change, a Florida think tank dedicated to improving education.

Pearson was an assistant principal when Mount Vernon received its first "A" after being a "D" school for three years. Since she became principal in 2004, the school has continued to receive A grades.

The award, named after the council's founder, honors school leaders who have participated in the council's educational programs and have contributed to the success of their schools.

Good leadership from principals is key to a school's success, said Elaine Liftin, president and executive director of the Council for Educational Change.

"A principal with a can-do attitude could build a vision and marshal the troops and get everybody engaged in positive behaviors in the school," Liftin said.

Pearson has faced challenges in improving Mount Vernon's academic performance. The school has 73 percent of its students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches and a challenging population of special needs students, Liftin said.

The award also honors Pearson's work in staff development - she has had no teacher turnover in two years - and partnerships with the business community, including a mentoring program with Raymond James Financial.

Strong leadership, staff development and partnerships with the community are the categories evaluated for the award.

"She's a wonderful, wonderful recipient," Liftin said.

The award came with perks for Pearson, including a limousine ride to school arranged by an assistant principal and a congratulatory video that the Council for Educational Change recorded at Mount Vernon.

The $10,000 is for Pearson's personal use, whether she wants to spend it on herself or invest it in the school.

"There are no strings attached," Liftin said. "The idea is to really say to somebody who has gone above and beyond expectations, 'Congratulations, you deserve it.'"

Libby Nelson can be reached at 727 893-8779 or lnelson@sptimes.com