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2019 Heart of the School Award Honorees

Principal Corey Basmajian’s unique ability to communicate with families, students and staff has resulted quickly in significant enrollment increases, academic growth and teacher recruitment and retention at Francis Scott Key Elementary Middle School. Students are challenged and teachers are given the opportunity to lead. Principal Basmajian created the district’s only advanced courses in kindergarten and first grade, with plans to expand those offerings to second and third grade next school year. In Principal Basmajian’s six years as a principal (four at Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle School and two at Francis Scott Key), he has never lost a teacher that he hoped to retain to another Baltimore City Public School.


Corey Basmajian

Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School


Mark Gaither

Wolfe Street Academy

During Mark Gaither’s 14 years as principal, Wolfe Street Academy has risen from being ranked 77th to near the top of city schools on state assessment performance, consistently outperforming schools with similar demographics. As a community school and neighborhood hub, Wolfe Street provides the support that students need to be ready to learn, from medical check-ups, mental health services and dental exams to clothing and supplies. Principal Gaither is a nationally recognized leader in the community school movement; Wolfe Street has been named one of the five best community schools in the country. Students feel safe and supported, and parents are given the resources they need to advocate for and empower their children. Wolfe Street serves one of the highest percentages of immigrant families in Baltimore, and supporting his students’ families with their unique needs is a hallmark of Principal Gaither’s leadership and part of what makes Wolfe Street such a special place.

The magical, welcoming and celebratory environment found at Brehms Lane Public Charter School begins with Principal Diya Slayton’s passionate and energetic leadership. She emphasizes positive reinforcement to her staff and students, and uses unique motivational techniques to get results – including a Harry Potter-esque “house” system that helps build a sense of community in the school between students and staff.  Students earn house points by following the school's 10 expectations (demonstrating academic and behavioral successes). During her three years of leadership, Principal Slayton has transformed Brehms Lane into a school where students are excited to learn, families are engaging with educators, and classrooms are filled with fun and hands-on learning. 


Diya Hafiz-Slayton

Brehms Lane Public Charter School


Students coming to Abbottston Elementary School feel loved, thanks to Principal Cathy Miles’ commitment to supporting them with the positivity, focus and resources they need to succeed. At the beginning of the school year, Principal Miles organized a school supply giveaway and BBQ to welcome all students, including those from a recently closed school who were hesitant to change schools. Her implementation of arts integration at Abbottston gives students opportunities to infuse hands-on creativity into the content they study, enhancing learning in the process. The participation doesn’t stop with students – Principal Miles inspires teachers to expand their responsibilities and lead committees that explore school improvements like attendance, family engagement and special programs.

Cathy Miles

Abbottston Elementary School

Principal Jael Samuel emphasizes teacher development, and the results over her 10 years at Tench Tilghman reveal a talented group of educators engaging an interested, committed group of students. The school boasts an attendance rate of 96%, one of the best in the district, and students are achieving continual gains in academic performance. Teachers are given time to collaborate, focus on areas of growth and connect with experts to enhance that development. Principal Samuel drove the construction of a new playground at the school, making sure it remains open to everyone in the neighborhood. With this kind of commitment to students, teachers and the neighborhood, Principal Samuel is solidifying Tench Tilghman’s important place as a hub for the community.


Jael Samuel

Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School

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