Manuel Sanchez is the kind of principal who isn’t afraid to climb into the school carnival’s dunk tank, shave his hair into a mohawk or get silly at a pep rally.
Maybe that’s why he was named Miami Dade County Principal of the Year for 2015-2016 at a celebration Thursday night.
In the five years that Sanchez has led Miami Lakes Middle, the school has gone from under-enrolled to overflowing with students from as far away as Broward County. Where 16 percent of students were once forced to repeat a grade, now only one percent do. And instead of keeping students with special needs to themselves, Sanchez has made sure at least half get to experience general education classes with their peers.
“He has created a culture at Miami Lakes Middle that has made the once difficult and awkward transition for students from elementary to middle school easy and enjoyable,” school counselor Jenel Romero wrote in a letter of recommendation.
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The award of Assistant Principal of the Year went to Gabriel Quintero of Kenwood K-8 Center. A data whiz, Quintero developed ways to use test score information to target students who need the most help, coordinated a holiday show for deaf and hard of hearing students and always carries a legal pad to take note of issues that need to be addressed.
“He leads by example,” wrote Sandra R. Acosta, a science teacher at Kenwood.
William Aristide of Booker T. Washington High School was runner-up Principal of the Year. Elena Cabrera of Ronald W. Reagan/Doral Senior was runner up for Assistant Principal of the Year.