Elbridge Gale Principal Receives Award From Florida TaxWatch

Principal Gail Pasterczyk accepts the Principal Leadership Award from Meg Cannan of Florida TaxWatch.

Elbridge Gale Elementary School Principal Gail Pasterczyk was recently selected to receive an award from Florida TaxWatch as one of the top five elementary school principals in the state, and she was honored at the Wellington school on Tuesday, March 5.

Florida TaxWatch (FLTW) has served as an independent, nonpartisan government watchdog group since 1979. Eleven years ago, the organization created a program to recognize effective principals at schools with large populations of high-risk students. FLTW awards five school principals at each level — elementary, middle and high school — for a total of 15 school leaders each year.

“What separates our program from other programs is that it’s data driven,” FLTW Senior Research Analyst Meg Cannan explained. “No one voted for your principal. It wasn’t a popularity contest. We looked at the numbers to see who could really bring great leadership to their school.”

School performance is rated on student learning gains in reading and math over a three-year period. High-risk circumstances are factored in, and schools are ranked a second time.

“What do you think the most important thing is for your education?” Cannan asked the students present at the ceremony. “What people make this happen? Who helps us learn? Teachers! That’s right. Good teachers. And to make sure that you have good teachers, you need someone at the top who is a strong leader who helps guide your teachers and chooses good teachers for your classroom. That’s your principal.”

Pasterczyk took to the podium and thanked her staff, referring to them as the best teachers in Palm Beach County.

“I have never received this award before, and I didn’t even know it existed, as it is not anything I can be nominated for,” Pasterczyk said when asked before the ceremony. “As part of my award, Florida TaxWatch gives a two-year scholarship to a student of our selection. I met with the fifth-grade teachers, and they nominated someone who met the eligibility criteria. It was challenging to only pick one student, as we have many deserving students.”

The scholarship, presented to student De’Marcus Sparks, was awarded courtesy of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, and its director Cindy O’Connell was present, along with Palm Beach County School Superintendent Michael Burke and two members of the Palm Beach County School Board — Marcia Andrews of District 6 and Erica Whitfield of District 4.

In true educator spirit, Pasterczyk was quick to make the ceremony more about the students than herself.

“Joining us here today is his mother to help congratulate De’Marcus Sparks,” she said. “You’ve done an amazing job. You’ve impressed us all, and we couldn’t be prouder of you today.”

Sparks gave heartfelt thanks to his mother, Vizcaya Davis, and his teachers when accepting the award.

“I love my job, and I’m thankful to be the proud principal of Elbridge Gale,” Pasterczyk said. “I had the unique opportunity to hire the entire staff of superstars. Without their expertise, dedication and support, we would not be able to achieve success at such a high level. Our proficiency rates are equivalent to schools with half the number of needy students. In order to accomplish that, it takes a village.”

Pasterczyk is also a former William T. Dwyer Award winner in the special education category, and she was the Central Region Principal of the Year in 2023.