AASA Names 2015 Women in School Leadership Award Finalists


James Minichello
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AASA Names 2015 Women in School Leadership Award Finalists

Alexandria, Va. – Oct. 29, 2014 – Education leaders representing Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Oregon comprise the four finalists for the 2015 Women in School Leadership Awards, announced today by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Co-sponsored by Farmers Insurance, the award is designed to recognize exceptional leadership of active, front-line female administrators who are making a difference in the lives of students every day and to pay tribute to the talent, creativity and vision of outstanding women educational administrators in the nation’s public schools.

“In today’s public education space, it is critical to take advantage of the many talented women the industry offers and secure leadership positions for them,” said Randy Rice, national manager, Education Programs, Farmers Insurance. “AASA is one of our most valuable partners because this is an organization that works directly with the leaders of our education system. Recognizing and celebrating the outstanding women in this field will not only create career milestones for them, but also, more importantly, improve our schools and school districts.”

The award is given in two separate categories: the superintendent/assistant superintendent category and the central-office administrator/principal category. The criteria include demonstration of strength in both personal and organizational communication, professionalism and community involvement.

The finalists are:

Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent category:

MaryEllenMaryEllen Elia, superintendent, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tampa, Fla. Elia was appointed superintendent of the school district on July 1, 2005. A lifelong educator, she began her career as a social studies teacher in the state of New York in 1970. In 1986, she relocated to the Tampa Bay area after accepting a position at Plant High School as a reading resource specialist. She was promoted to several key positions in the district over the next 20 years.


Karen-CheserKaren Cheser, deputy superintendent, chief academic officer, Boone County Schools, Florence, Ky. Prior to working in Kentucky education as a teacher, coach, literacy and math specialist, principal, Distinguished Educator and district administrator, Cheser worked for Procter & Gamble Inc. in sales and brand management. She has been a leader in the state and region, guiding initiatives and directing organizations, such as the Northern Kentucky Education Council.

Central Office Administrator/Principal category:  

Julie-JensonJulie Jensen, executive director for student services, Linn-Mar Community School District, Marion, Iowa. Jensen has served the school district in this position since January 2005. Prior to joining Linn-Mar Community Schools, she served as the associate director of special services for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, a position she held from July 2000 to December 2004.  


Michelle-ZundelMichelle Zundel, principal, Ashland High School, Ashland School District, Ashland, Ore. The principal of Ashland High School since August 2010, Zundel has held administrative positions in the school district since August 1995.

“The emergence of outstanding women leaders continues to strengthen public education, which is why we are grateful to Farmers Insurance for supporting this important program,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director. “Congratulations to the four outstanding finalists, as well as all of the women educators who were in the running for this award. They are making a positive difference in the lives of the students they serve in their respective communities.”

Candidates are judged based on leadership in meeting the learning needs of students, personal and organizational communication strength, constant professional improvement of knowledge and skills, and active community involvement. The final award recipients, one each in the superintendent/assistant superintendent category and central office/principal/specialist category, will be announced during the AASA 2015 National Conference on Education, Feb. 26-28, 2015, in San Diego, Calif.


About Farmers Insurance
Farmers Group Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services, an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets. Farmers® is the nation's third-largest Personal Lines Property & Casualty insurance group. Property and casualty products are underwritten and issued by the Farmers Exchanges and their subsidiaries, which Farmers Group Inc. manages but does not own. Headquartered in Los Angeles and doing business in 41 states, the Farmers insurers provide homeowners, auto, business, life insurance and financial services to more than 10 million households.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.