BRADENTON -- Tara Elementary School Principal Steve Royce is one of three principal of the year finalists for Florida.
Royce got the call from Pam Stewart, Commissioner of Education, on Wednesday after school, he said. He was in his assistant principal's office at the time and wasn't sure why someone with a Tallahassee area code was calling.
Word got out Thursday that he was a finalist as Tara Elementary students and staff celebrated.
"Without quality staff, you're not going to be successful as a principal," he said, adding he considers the award a team effort, and as a result of the hard work of his staff.
In information from the school district and the state, Royce was touted for setting high expectations for students and adults, engaging community partners to enhance the academic experience for his students and improving the school grade from a C to a B -- based on 2014-15 simulated school grades -- and achieving the highest numeric grade in its history.
"I am so proud that one of our own, Principal Steven Royce, was nominated for this prestigious honor," Superintendent Diana Greene said in a statement Thursday. "Steven is a wonderful representative of the devotion and dedication, exemplified by our employees
on a daily basis."
The school on Linger Lodge Road has more than 600 students and 78 employees. Royce said he's a team player and has worked to build a good school community.
"It's the real deal," he said. "It's a good time to be at Tara."
For the principal of the year award, each district nominates a principal. The nominated principal writes an essay about the highlights of their school. Both Cynthia Saunders, deputy superintendent for instruction and Annette Codelia, one of the district's two executive directors of elementary schools, wrote recommendations. All the information was considered by a committee that narrowed the list to three principal of the year finalists and three assistant principal of the year finalists.
For the principal of the year, Royce joins:
Tamie Stewart of Parkside Elementary School in Collier County.
Rhonda Hunt of Eustis Heights Elementary School in Lake County.
The state's top administrators will be named Feb. 8 in a ceremony at the Commissioner's Summit for Principals. The recipient of the 2016 Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 for his or her school. The 2016 Assistant Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and $500 for his or her school.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.