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Excellence in Education Awards honors employees, highlights student talent

The Excellence in Education Awards was held at Manatee High School on Thursday, February 8, 2024.

The event is held annually to honor and recognize Manatee County’s Educator and Support Employee of the Year finalists.

It also showcases the talent of Manatee County students, who are invited to perform before and during the ceremony.

Attendees were immediately welcomed to the event by the Parrish Community High School “Blue Belles” dance team and Coach Jessie Schoch.

During the reception, guests enjoyed the sounds of Manatee High School’s Jazz Band under the direction of Carlos Galletti.

Southeast High School's Saxophone Quartet played too, led by Band Director Andrea Vella. 

Under the tent nearby, Manatee High School culinary students beamed with pride as their colorful desserts became the highlight of the meal.

It took weeks of planning and preparation for teacher Judith Conover and her young pastry chefs. We’re told the Key Lime pie bites were among the favorites.

As guests walked the red carpet inside the Davis Building, the sweet strings of Braden River High School’s Sinfonietta Orchestra could be heard, under the direction of Orchestra Director, Katherine Ng.

Inside the auditorium, Host Kevin Chapman, introduced the Manatee High School JROTC Color Guard and LTC Kenneth Crawford for the Presentation of Colors.

School Board Chair Chad Choate led the Pledge of Allegiance, before a moving National Anthem sang by Manatee High School Chamber Singers led by Chorus Director Tommy Jomisko.

Next, Support Site Representatives walked across the state to receive recognition. 

Afterward, Manatee County’s Principal of the Year, Joshua Bennett from Braden River Elementary, and Assistant Principal of the Year, Jessica Kane, who is now the principal of Palm View K-8, were honored.

Chorus Director Kerrie Carrier led the Parrish Community High School Chamber Choir in a performance of the song, “I Saw a Child,” by Ryan Main.

After Denise Costello was announced as Support Employee of the Year, the curtain opened for an intermission performance.

Theater Director David Springer and Lakewood Ranch High School Mustang Players’ brought to the stage, “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” and “Green Eggs and Ham” from Seussical.

The final moments of the evening included naming Katie Bagley as Manatee County’s Teacher of the Year.


It was a great night for public education and wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of district employees and student volunteers working behind the scenes, financial support from Manatee Education Foundation, and their generous sponsors.