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2016 Heart of the School Awards Finalists

Photo by Harry Bosk

Federico Adams

Six years at William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School in Sandtown


Federico Adams comes from a family of Baltimore City Public Schools principals and is an expert identifier and leader of talent. According to a community partner, “Mr. Adams’ personal vision and mission doesn’t stop with the students; he is also that peer leader to his colleagues, staff, partners and friends.” He has transformed his school both physically and culturally, ensuring his students believe in themselves and know that they can achieve their goals. Mr. Adams gets to know each student’s situation out of school, pushes them to explore their interests, and makes sure that every student visits a college campus by third grade!






Tonya Combs-Redd

Three years at Yorkwood Elementary School in Loch Raven


Tonya Combs-Redd recognizes the importance of effective communication and works to ensure that she hears her school community. This tone was set at the beginning of her tenure, as she brought the school community together to develop the vision and mission statement for the school, and is reinforced each year as the community is invited to revisit the vision/mission and make adjustments as needed. Her two-way communication strategy to include space for comments and feedback on any materials that are sent home has built trust with the community and increased parent engagement. She is very data-driven and has instilled this belief in her staff as well. Ms. Combs-Redd is deeply devoted to her school and students, which does not go unnoticed by her school community. This is summed up well by one of her teachers: “Ms. Redd's transformational leadership has encouraged staff to stay, students to love going to school and our community to remain engaged.” 





James Dendinger

Eight years at Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School in Federal Hill


James Dendinger has engaged parents and his community in the success of his school. When he became principal, there were three parents in the Parent Teacher Organization. Now, meetings are regularly attended by 40-50 parents and there are over 100 parents who are actively involved in the school community. Much of this success can be attributed to his open-door policy with parents and his caring personality. As one parent said, “He has made such a tremendous impact on our children, the school & the community. He is extremely professional yet is very approachable.” Under his leadership, the school has grown from 340 to 550 students, and he has increased the number of school partners dramatically. Mr. Dendinger is a hands-on leader who attends and participates in teacher and data meetings, and cares deeply about the success of the school and its students.




Job Grotsky

Three years at Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School in Bolton Hill


Job Grotsky brings a relentless positivity to his school that has permeated throughout the community. As one parent wrote, “His enthusiasm for school and for our children is contagious! He believes in his students, and works tirelessly to create opportunities for their continued growth.” He wants students, parents, and the community to feel welcome in the school and has conducted extensive community outreach to invite them in. He’s also very visible in the community, whether it is greeting parents and students during drop off in the morning or working on the school grounds installing benches and flower boxes on the weekends. His teachers appreciate his supportive leadership style and want to remain part of the team; he has greatly decreased teacher turnover and increased stability. He is committed to his students, teachers, and community, and it shows in the passion he has for his work.


Amber Kilcoyne

Two years at Medfield Heights Elementary School in Medfield


Amber Kilcoyne excels at assessing and then addressing student needs. Ms. Kilcoyne leads a school with students from 19 countries with a variety of academic and non-academic needs. One of her strategies for personalizing their learning is Power Hour, which provides reading-level appropriate intervention for every child, every day. As one of her students puts it, “Mrs. Kilcoyne has done a lot for us. […] She will listen to all of our ideas. She is so nice, and treats us equally.” Ms. Kilcoyne also seeks feedback from her teachers and parents, and acts on their recommendations, including making changes to the entrance of the school.



Benjamin Mosley

Two years at Glenmount Elementary/Middle School in Hamilton


Benjamin Mosley is a leader with a constant focus on what is best for his students. He believes strongly in the importance of building relationships with his students, teachers, and families in order to understand what their needs are, which goes beyond what data can show him. In the words of one of his teachers, “Mr. Mosley doesn't just lead the school, he wants teachers to be an active participant in the success of the school and he values feedback whether good or bad.” Under his leadership, Glenmount has increased parental involvement by establishing parent programs and treating parents as partners who play a vital part in the decision making for the school. Mr. Mosley has also worked with his school community to increase the amount of student activities available, including the creation of a Homecoming Week for the school. Mr. Mosley greets everyone with a smile and treats everyone with respect, which has helped him earn the respect of the school community he serves.


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