Excellence in Leadership Award 

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Presented for the first time this year, the Excellence in Leadership Award recognizes the outstanding achievement and dedication of one exemplary DCPS principal with a $10,000 award. The Rubenstein Awards for Highly Effective Leadership recognize the success of five DCPS school leaders with a $5,000 award.

Award winners were nominated by DCPS educators, students, parents, and community members, and then selected by a DCPS central office panel. The awards are funded through the generosity of David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group and chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Excellence in Leadership and Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Leadership winners are recognized at the annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers, hosted by DC Public Education Fund and held at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

Nominate a principal, teacher, or staff member for a 2013-14 Excellence or Rubenstein Award. 


2013 Excellence in Leadership Award

Abdullah A. Zaki II, Principal, Kelly Miller Middle School 


With close to 15 years of experience as an urban educator in the District of Columbia, Abdullah A. Zaki II began his career as a teacher at Roosevelt Senior High School. Throughout his career he has served as an Assistant Principal at Maya Angelou PCS, Ballou Senior High School and Benjamin Banneker Academic High School. 

Currently, he is the Principal of Kelly Miller Middle School which offers one of two Gifted and Talented programs in Ward 7. Under his leadership, truancy has dropped from 30% to 1% and suspensions have been reduced by over 50%; most importantly, over a three year period, Kelly Miller students’ standardized test scores have increased by more than 30% in math and by more than 15% in reading as measured by the DC Comprehensive Assessment System. 

Abdullah A. Zaki II believes that gains in education are the direct result of utilizing data to make informed decisions, providing quality professional development opportunities, celebrating the accomplishments of all members of the school family and establishing a culture of equity, excellence and expectations. In addition to maintaining the responsibilities of a school leader, Abdullah A. Zaki II also serves as a mentor principal for the Mary Jane Patterson Fellow Program and the New Leaders for New Schools Program.


2012 Excellence in Leadership Award

David Pinder, Principal, McKinley Technology High School


David Pinder believes in empowering educators and students, in developing high performing professional learning communities and in implementing strategies that drive incredible student achievement gains. Since beginning his education career in 1999 as a social studies teacher, he has served as principal, assistant principal, department chair, academy leader and AVID coordinator. 

Mr. Pinder’s accomplishments as a principal include being selected as an Education Champion by New Leaders for New Schools and America Achieves in 2010, 2011 and 2012; acting as an advisor to DCPS for the Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship Program; and serving as a Mentor Principal to three New Leaders residents. Most importantly, as principal of McKinley Technology High School since 2007, Mr. Pinder has transformed McKinley Tech into a positive learning environment that prepares students for success in college and in life.  He has led a team of educators toward impressive gains in student achievement in both reading and math.

Under his leadership, McKinley students have advanced more than 30% in math proficiency and 20% in reading proficiency as measured by the DC CAS.  In 2012, the school reached the coveted 90/90 status: 91% of students scored proficient in reading and 92% scored proficient in math; 90% of students are minority. Recently, the US Department of Education recognized McKinley Tech as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School; it is the only public high school in DC to receive this honor.


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