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TaxWatch identifies top-performing school leaders

Miami-Dade County is home to five of the six most effective principals in the state, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the non-profit Florida TaxWatch and the Florida State University Learning Systems Institute.

The analysis was based on student achievement gains in math and reading. It considered data from more than 3,000 schools serving high percentages of English Language Learners and students from low-income families. 

"Nobody applied or was nominated for this award," TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said. "It was: Don't ask us. We'll call you."

Five of the six top-performing principals came from Miami-Dade: Tangela Goa, of Van E. Blanton Elementary; Linda Amica-Roberts, of Coconut Palm K-8 Academy; Anna Hernandez, of M.A. Milam K-8 Center; Guillermo Munoz, of Westland Hialeah Senior High; and Verena Cabrera, of Hialeah High.

The sixth, Yvonne Reins, works at Rodney B. Cox Elementary School in Pasco County.

Each will be honored with at least $5,000 at a ceremony in Tallahassee on Jan. 23. 

The Elite Principals Awards are part of a larger initiative to improve student achievement at high-risk schools, Calabro said. The six principals will participate in a four-year study to identify the traits, habits and practices of top-performing school leaders.

Calabro hopes the study will inform future education policy and principal preparation programs.

"What we're really trying to learn is how they beat the odds," he said. "By replicating these behaviors, we believe we will improve student achievement across the state.

Reins, the principal of Cox Elementary, gave the credit to her staff.

"The teachers are very dedicated and they have a lot of tenacity to work with these students," she said. "They truly care about them."