McDaniel named Florida Principal of the Year

  • Sarajean McDaniel with some of her students at Moseley Elementary School.
    Sarajean McDaniel with some of her students at Moseley Elementary School.
  • Sarajean McDaniel
    Sarajean McDaniel

Sarajean McDaniel was selected Saturday as the 2020 Florida Principal of the Year by the state Department of Education.

McDaniel was recognized for her role in improvements made at Moseley Elementary School in Palatka. The school was removed from the state's turnaround list in 2019 when it improved to a C rating.

Putnam County School Superintendent Rick Surrency said McDaniel "exemplifies excellence in educational leadership."

Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Saturday on his Twitter page, tweeting: "Congratulations to Ms. Sarajean Branam McDaniel, Florida's 2020 Principal of the Year. Her hard work and commitment have made a difference in the lives of the students and staff at Moseley Elementary School and the community."

Surrency said McDaniel's honor was "a great day for Putnam County."

"We were just notified that Gov. DeSantis announced Sarajean McDaniel as the Florida Principal of the Year," Surrency said. "I am very proud of what Sarajean and the Moseley Elementary School family have achieved to help the school 'move mountains.'"

McDaniel, a Palatka native and graduate of Palatka High School, was recently promoted to the school district office to serve as a leadership development coach. She is the first winner of the state award from the Putnam County School District.

"I was just really proud and shocked, proud of the students, teachers and parents who worked so hard over the last three years," McDaniel said Saturday. "I received this award, but it's a reflection of the entire school and community.

"It's bittersweet that I won't be at Moseley everyday, but I'll still be working with them and will keep encouraging them to move in a positive direction like I know they will. Now I'll get to work in the whole district with everyone."

The school district said in a press release that the Principal of the Year will be awarded a cash prize of $3,500 and attend a celebration at a later date.

McDaniel graduated from St. Johns River State College before graduating from the University of North Florida. She has been an educator in the Putnam County School District since 1996 and has been principal at Moseley Elementary since 2017. Prior to working at Moseley, she served as principal at James A. Long Elementary School in Palatka for eight years.

She was named the 2020 Putnam County Principal of the Year in October 2019.

Moseley had been on the state turnaround list since 2009 due to annually receiving a Florida school grade below a C.

"This incredible change did not happen overnight but was envisioned and facilitated by Sarajean's strong faith in the entire Moseley family," said Assistant Superintendent Laura France. "Sarajean is not just a successful principal of a turnaround school, she is a leader of leaders who understands the amazing potential in each and every person."