October 21, 2021
Two California principals are among the eight recipients of this year’s Terrel H. Bell Award, awarded to school leaders nationwide whose vision and collaborative leadership style have transformed their schools. They are Christy Flores, principal of Maude B. Davis Elementary School in Newport-Mesa Unified, and Sonia Anna Flores, principal of Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy in Gilroy Unified.
“Over the last 18 months, in the face of unprecedented circumstances, these school leaders have found creative ways to protect, nurture, and engage children, families, and school staff,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in announcing the awards Thursday. “Bell awardees have worked tirelessly, investing every ounce of their energy and expertise in their schools and students.”
The award is named after Terrel Bell, the nation’s second secretary of education. Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the application process for National Blue Ribbon Schools, which recognize public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Sonia Flores has led the TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy for eight years. Located on the grounds of Gavilan Community College, the school enables students from diverse backgrounds to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree or two years of college credit. As part of building a school community, all ninth through 11th graders during first period take academic prep, which provides peer tutoring, restorative justice led by an honors tribunal, and associated student body-led activities and assemblies.
Since 2013, Christy Flores has been principal of the Davis Magnet School, where she stresses building well-being, a growth mindset, relationships, empathy, and resilience, according to a U.S. Department of Education news release. Through the Davis Magnet Foundation, which she started, the school has been able to underwrite after-school robotics, a ceramics kiln, teacher assistants, grade level supports and a community garden.