When William Davies School Principal Stephen Santilli arrived at the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences Bammy Awards ceremony on Saturday he was one of five national finalists for the middle school principal award.
He left with the silver Bammy award, which, he said Wednesday, he shares with the entire Hamilton Township school.
“It was like the Academy Awards,” he said of the event held in Washington, D.C. “We had a limo come to get us, and there was a red carpet. But we didn’t know who would win until we got there.”
Santilli has been principal at Davies for four years and was assistant principal for three years before that. He also taught in Hammonton for seven years. He was nominated by Becky Garofalo, a reading specialist at the school for 30 years, who said Santilli was a role model for everyone.
“We always tell our students that they have to take ownership of their education to succeed,” said Garofalo, who retired last year. “That’s what he does. This is not just a job for him. It’s a way of life. He’s always looking for new things to do, and ways to improve and reflect. He’s very hands on.”
The third annual Bammy awards honored students, educators, education advocates and innovators. Other recipients included Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, pioneers of the flipped classroom, creativity advocate Sir Ken Robinson, and the Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.
The nomination process includes a period during which the public can comment, and Santilli said it was very gratifying to read the comments colleagues and parents posted. His nomination was also reviewed by a peer council and board of governors.
“This was a unique opportunity for me, my school and community, and a way to celebrate what we are doing here at Davies,” said Santilli.
He pointed to school murals painted by the students and the school’s extensive use of social media to say in touch with parents and the community as a hallmark of his leadership model of community involvement.
“This really belongs to every staff member, parent and child in the school,” he said of the award.
Hamilton Township School Superintendent Michelle Cappelluti said that while Santilli will humbly say the award is for the work of the entire school, he has been a driving force in implementing opportunities for students.
“Steve’s passion for creating a family environment, his work in advocating social media as a positive influence in the school community, and his desire to continue to learn are inimitable,” she said in an email. “The confidence Mr. Santilli portrays in leadership is motivating and inspiring to staff and students alike. I am extremely proud of him.”
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