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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Unsuspecting Stoneham Principal Honored With Surprise $25,000 Award

STONEHAM - A Stoneham elementary school principal got an unexpected $25,000 bonus from Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and state officials on Tuesday when he was lured into a school-wide assembly and given a 2006 Milken Family Foundation National Educator award.

South Elementary School Principal Nicholas Leonardos was unaware he had been recommended for the national award until his name was called out.

“Excellent teachers and administrators are what make our schools the very best,” said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. “The commitment, dedication and leadership Nicholas has shown in his school is not just commendable, it’s awe-inspiring.”

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who attended the announcement, agreed.

“We must recognize the special contribution that outstanding teachers make to our schools and to the lives of our students,” she said. “The Milken Award provides us with an opportunity to highlight the difference that one educator can make.”

Leonardos is one of nearly 100 educators nationally receiving the Milken award, and one of two in Massachusetts. The second recipient is Amanda Sequin, a sheltered English immersion teacher at the Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston. She was also honored at her school on Tuesday.

Recipients each receive a check for $25,000, a trip to Los Angeles for a conference and awards ceremony, and membership in a network of nearly 2,200 educators from around the nation who have received this award since it was first given in 1987. This is the 10th year Massachusetts has participated in the program.

Leonardos is now in his 15th year in education and sixth year as a principal. He was lauded for the collaborative work culture he has encouraged in his school, and his ability to build consensus and motivate students, staff and parents.

In his recommendation application, Stoneham Superintendent Joseph Connelly highlighted Leonardos’ efforts to bring full-day kindergarten to his school, as well as his commitment to school readiness and early literacy.

“Exemplary educators make a difference in the lives of their students,” Connelly wrote. “Mr. Leonardos has made such a difference in the life of his school.”

Established in 1985, the Milken award is given annually to unsuspecting teachers, principals and educators from around the country. Known as “The Oscars of Teaching” the awards were created by the foundation as a way to reward, attract and retain top educators in the nation’s public schools.

The Massachusetts recipients were selected by an independent statewide Blue Ribbon panel of principals, teachers and other educators. Predetermined criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise, skill in developing innovative and creative curricula and programs, commitment to professional development, and ability to instill self-confidence in students.

Brothers Lowell and Michael Milken established the Milken Family Foundation in 1982 to support education and health care nationwide. The educator recognition program is the largest in the United States.

For more information on the Milken National Educator Awards, check the Foundation’s Web site at

Last Updated: October 3, 2006
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