District Data Leader of the Year Program


The Florida Department of Education's Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year Program highlights the critical role district superintendents play in supporting and encouraging the use of data to improve students' college and career readiness. The Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year Program recognizes superintendents who are leading the way using education data to drive student improvement. The program focuses on district data leaders' contributions to improve students' education outcomes through the use of data. The District Data Leader of the Year Award has been renamed in memory of Lavan Dukes and his countless contributions to the Florida Department of Education and the nation in building a strong foundation in the collection and use of K-12 education data. Dukes served the FDOE and the state of Florida for 40 years, most recently serving as chief of the Bureau of Education Information and Accountability Services. 

Superintendent Himmel was selected as the 2014 Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year based on the accomplishments Citrus County has made through her leadership over the past 10 years.

Sandra “Sam” Himmel - 2014 Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year

Superintendent Himmel was selected as the 2014 Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year based on the accomplishments Citrus County has made through her leadership over the past 10 years. As superintendent, she has established a shared vision and clearly defined beliefs and practices that recognize the importance of data to improve student achievement and to guide the decisions and actions of all who influence the lives of Citrus County students. This mission and culture, a centerpiece of the district’s strategic plan and processes, have contributed greatly to the success of the students, teachers, schools and district. Citrus County Schools, a small rural community of 15,000 students with approximately 63 percent of these students identified as economically disadvantaged, has been honored as a “High Performing School District” for eight years in a row and has been rated an “A” school district for seven of these eight years. These achievements are directly related to Himmel’s focus on the importance of quality data, quality practices and quality staff to enhance learning.

Her data-driven focus and positive spirit with students, staff and community contributed to these extraordinary accomplishments, including her schools being recognized in Washington Post’s list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” and U.S. News and World Report’s “Best High Schools” ranking. Himmel has mentored school district superintendents, spearheaded the Central Florida Committee of Superintendents, and she sees her position on the Commissioner’s Leadership Policy Advisory Committee as a critical role as Florida transitions to new standards and assessments.

Himmel has established policies, programs and practices for data usage that have a profound impact on student placement and student achievement. These methods have been sustained over time, have been established and supported systematically throughout the district, and are centered on students. For Himmel, data quality, data capacity and a sound data culture are the foundations for data-driven actions. This often leads to more comprehensive studies as Superintendent Himmel maintains that all should understand the information so that they may be a part of the solution. She continuously asks, “What is the data telling us?” She follows with the question, “So what caused this to happen?” She initiates the thinking for action plans by inquiring, “Now what should we do to improve – what is our strategic plan?”

Previous Award Winners

2013 - Dr. Barbara Jenkins

Superintendent Barbara Jenkins has been dedicated to serving the needs of students for more than 25 years. She was named superintendent for Orange County Public Schools in 2012. Superintendent Jenkins leads the district through the use of student data systems, impacting practice and student performance. Under Superintendent Jenkins' leadership, Orange County public schools are at the forefront of innovative strategies to increase parent and community involvement, support teachers and administrators in the use of student data to achieve district goals, and provide targeted support to schools as needed. For example, she used student data to monitor and improve opportunities for acceleration. She also created the Minority Achievement Office and School Transformation Office to focus district attention and support to close achievement gaps and support schools that require targeted assistance.

2012 - Alberto Carvalho

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was selected as the 2012 District Data Leader of the Year Award winner based on his visionary leadership of implementing a Data Assessment & Technical Assistance/Coordination of Management (DATA/COM) process to monitor the immediate operational needs of the districts' most struggling schools and deploy resources to deal with critical issues in an efficient and timely manner. Superintendent Carvalho led initiatives that supported Florida's successful bid for RTTT funding resulting in $700 million for Florida's schools and helped students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools outperform their national peers on the 2009 Reading, Mathematics, and Science NAEP.

2011 - MaryEllen Elia

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia was selected based on her leadership in gathering stakeholder input to create customized school- and district-level performance scorecards, as well as building a comprehensive, secure, user-friendly dashboard that combines a variety of data for her district. Leading Hillsborough County Public Schools since 2005, Superintendent Elia was instrumental in earning the district's $100 million Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant in 2009 to raise student achievement by promoting effective teaching. Since then, the district successfully negotiated a new teacher evaluation system that uses data to gauge the effectiveness of teachers.

2010 - Tom Townsend

Superintendent Tom Townsend received the award for his work in implementing the Learning Gains Index, an informative tool that uses student achievement data to help Putnam County administrators and teachers evaluate their work to determine ways they can drive continued student improvement. In his service as Putnam County's superintendent of schools, Townsend has been a strong supporter of financial planning and transparency in the local public school system. His leadership in the creation of the Learning Gains Index, which quantifies teacher effectiveness in terms of student growth, has helped to better inform his educators about their work in the classroom by examining average student growth per teacher using FCAT scores.

If you have any questions about the Lavan Dukes District Data Leader of the Year Program or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact the Office of Communications and External Affairs at 850-245-9608 or email Stephanie.Lambert@fldoe.org.

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