ENGLEWOOD — An Englewood educator became the first principal Tuesday to receive the Al Ward Spirit and Giving Award in its 11-year history.
This year's recipient of the annual award from the nonprofit Communities In Schools of Chicago is Patricia McCann, principal of Benjamin Mays Academy, 6656 S. Normal Blvd.
"It feels good to be recognized for work you love doing," McCann said after being surprised with the award by the organization. "I was told [Communities In Schools of Chicago] wanted to meet with me. I had no idea I was walking into a room filled with well wishers, balloons and a cake."
McCann, who has been Mays' principal for 13 years, said the most rewarding part about being a principal is "watching children grow up."
She credits the 25-year-old organization for providing social services to needy children.
"Communities in Schools has provided the wrap-around services children need to help them do well in school," she said. "Building partnerships with community stakeholders is key to schools succeeding."
Choosing McCann as the first principal for the award was not hard, said Bartholomew St. John, program director for the organization.
"Dr. McCann was on a short list of finalists before, so choosing her this year was not a difficult decision," he said. "Mays Elementary is one of 160 community partners for us."
Each year the organization's staff comes up with a list of candidates based on their community service work, especially work with children and schools, St. John said. Last year the Writers Theater in north suburban Glencoe was the recipient for its one-person show about Martin Luther King Jr. In 2010, Lisa Maggiore, a social worker at Marquette Elementary School in Chicago Lawn, was the recipient.
The award is named after the late Al Ward, who St. John said was a longtime member of the organization.
The school year ends Friday for Mays and McCann said this year was challenging for her. Mays moved into Banneker Elementary School building last August after Chicago Public Schools consolidated the two schools.
"I went from having 300 students to 650 students. And trust me when I say this past year was a journey," McCann said. "I'll be happy once I get more parents engaged [in their children's education]. All in all though things are on the upswing at Benjamin Mays."
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