Jesús Armas Wins 2020 Principal of the Year Jesús Armas Wins 2020 Principal of the Year
Jesús Armas, principal of Royal Palm Beach Community High School, is the 2020 Principal of the Year for the School District of Palm Beach County.
The announcement was made Tuesday during a celebration held at Manatee Lagoon, an FPL Eco-Discovery Center. The event was organized by the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County in conjunction with the School District.
“I am incredibly grateful and honored. I am standing here because of all of the great work that so many people have been doing at Royal Palm Beach Community High School,” Dr. Armas said.
Dr. Armas went on to thank his wife of 40 years, his son and his parents who immigrated from Cuba in 1961.
When Dr. Armas assumed leadership of Royal Palm Beach High in 2010, the school had a ‘D’ rating and a poor community perception as being unsafe. The school experienced high staff turnover and was referred to by a local newspaper as “much-maligned.” Dr. Armas says his first order of business was creating a vision for the school in collaboration with the staff, students, and stakeholders. The goal was to meet the holistic needs of all students.
Dr. Armas immediately put a premium on focusing on security issues including modifying safety protocols and working with student leaders to foster respectful relationships. Along with other changes in school culture and safety, the number of students receiving referrals to the office decreased from 40% to 14%.
The school’s culture shift under Dr. Armas yielded additional positive results, with Royal Palm Beach High earning one of the highest scores in the School Effectiveness Questionnaire that quantifies how staff and faculty are valued and treated on campus. Employee turnover has declined noticeably and the newspaper that previously described the school as maligned now characterizes Royal Palm Beach High as the “Happiest High School” in the District.
A happy school is primed for success, and under Armas’ leadership, Royal Palm Beach High has seen its number of academies and rigorous coursework expand to include a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academy, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), Computer Gaming, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Navy JROTC.
The enhanced curriculum also includes a push from faculty to provide more accelerated courses to all students, with 75% of its graduates taking accelerated coursework. That push has also led to a dramatic increase in the school’s graduation rate, from 70.9 to 92.9% during Dr. Armas’ tenure. The school is also now B-rated.
Dr. Armas was one of four finalists. Other nominees for this prestigious honor include Reggie Myers from Park Vista Community High School, Michelle Fleming from Lake Park Elementary School, and Pamela Buckman from Pioneer Park Elementary School.
“Given the amount of talent we have in this District, it is a true honor to be nominated for Principal of the Year,” said Superintendent Donald E. Fennoy II. “We are grateful for your passion and your dedication to our students.”
The impressive backgrounds of the four finalists who were selected by the four Regional Offices, were submitted to a panel of local community leaders. The panelists’ final recommendation was submitted to the School District. For more on each of the Principal of the Year finalists, click here.
“We celebrate leadership. And I think our winner tonight, and in fact all of our nominees, illustrate the very heights of committed, servant leadership,” said event host and Education Foundation President and CEO James S. Gavrilos. “The effect they have on the schools they serve and the students they teach is nothing short of spectacular.”
The event was made possible by presenting sponsor Comcast, as well as United HealthCare, LRP Media Group, and the C. Kenneth and Laura Baxter Foundation of Palm Beach as the nominee sponsors, and Pratt & Whitney, PNC, BDO, NAI Merin Hunter Codman, Inc., Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, The Breakers, FPL Home, Universal Orlando Resort, ClassWallet, Hilton, and Dell EMC.
All four finalists received a prize package donated by the local business community.
As the winner, Dr. Armas is now eligible for the Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership by the Florida Department of Education. The winner of the state award will be announced later this year.