BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A principal is often the heart of a school. Now their students, faculty and community have an opportunity to recognize administrators who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. 

Five Baltimore City Public Schools principals will receive the Heart of School award this year. Besides the well-deserved recognition, the principals will also win $2,500 to put toward their classrooms.

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The annual awards are presented by the Fund for Educational Excellence, a Baltimore-based nonprofit which highlights exceptional leaders who build strong school culture and play a significant role in lifting up their students and staff.

Kevin Leary, senior program director for the nonprofit organization, said the awards are about school communities recognizing and respecting the work of their leaders and nominating them as a way of saying thank you for their efforts.

“This is really all driven by school communities,” Leary said.

For his efforts leading students and educators at Mary E. Rodman Elementary, David Guzman was one of five recipients of the award in 2020.

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“I realize, as a principal, that if I’m being acknowledged for something, it’s just part of the bigger picture, which means that I had an excellent staff and an excellent team around me,” Guzman said.

Guzman, now the principal at Cherry Hill Elementary-Middle School, said that principals have taken on many roles during the pandemic–they are teachers, administrators and now manage COVID-19 protocols all at the same time.

He said achievement is not a sprint but a gradual progression over time.

“When you build that type of community and culture, the test scores and all of the achievement data that we’re hoping for come–once you build that foundation,” Guzman said.

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Nominations are open through Jan. 31. Click here to nominate a principal.

Rachel Menitoff