ROCKLEDGE, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017 — St. Mary School Principal Sandra Basinger started the school year with a big surprise. She was recognized for her leadership and commitment to her community with the Jeni Heneghan Administrator of the Year Award.
A surprised Basinger accepted the award from School Superintendent Henry Fortier on Aug. 7. Fortier oversees education for the Diocese of Orlando Office of Catholic Schools, which covers Orange, Brevard, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Lake, Marion and Volusia counties.
“Sandy is an amazingly beautiful person who lives her faith and loves the students,” Fortier said. “This is a well-deserved honor for her years of dedication and service to the community.”
The award was named in honor of Jennifer Heneghan, who served as principal of All Souls Catholic School in Sanford from 2011 to 2014 when she died from a brain aneurysm. Previously she taught in public schools and was recognized as Volusia County’s Teacher of the Year in 1993.
Heneghan was very much involved in her church and Catholic schools. She was an active member of the Diocesan Superintendent’s Collaborative Council, and a member of the 2015 NCEA Steering Committee for the Orlando Convention, and the Diocesan
elementary school principal representative to the Catholic Youth Sports organization for many years. As a former softball player, she also enjoyed helping build good sportsmanship and collaborated on special events such as the Coaches Play like a Champion Day at Bishop Moore High School.
Basinger was selected from among Catholic school administrators throughout the Diocese for her exemplary leadership, inspiration, and modeling Christ for the entire St. Mary School community.
“Sandy is an amazing principal and an inspirational human being,” said Zenaida Kotala, whose son attends second grade at the school. “She’s a great administrator and as a parent you always know she cares about your child and your family. She has a challenging job juggling so many responsibilities, but she does it while exemplifying Christ’s teachings. I’m so happy she was recognized this way.”
Basinger, who has been principal at St. Mary in Rockledge for the past 6 years, embodies the spirit of the award. She lives to help her students and their families succeed and supports her teachers and staff. When she isn’t working long hours to ensure that teachers have the resources they need and that students and families are being served, she makes time to attend sporting, artistic and musical events. It’s not odd for her to attend various games, a musical performance and an afterschool club activity in the same week. She does it to demonstrate to her students and families that she really cares about the whole child. She serves on multiple committees and also volunteers at St Mary church having served in various capacities including overseeing religious education for children at the church.
Father Ivan Olmo who nominated Basinger for the award said, “What makes Sandy such a good principal is that she understands that in order to lead, inspire and teach – she must be led, inspired and taught. As a student, she continually seeks the assistance of our Mother Mary to learn how to minister to God’s children and administer to those who have been entrusted to her care. From Mary, she has learned to remain open to God’s possibilities and receptive to his gifts so that with the help of his grace she can continue to follow Jesus, be inspired by him and become that good leader who always learns, teaches and inspires.”
Her teachers are big supporters too.
“Sandy has a great devotion to the Blessed Mother Teresa and looks to her words for inspiration. One of her favorites quotes is, ‘I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’ That’s what being a mother, teacher, and principal has meant to Sandy,” said first-grade teacher Suzanne Strain. “We cannot always see the farthest ripple of our deeds or actions but the ripple can go on forever effecting many and creating positive change.”
Basinger, who’s been at St. Mary School for 20 years knows the school well. Not only did she teach English at the school before becoming its principal, but she had three of her own children attend the school.
“Receiving the Jeni Heneghan Award is a great honor” she said. “It is humbling to have been selected from all of the outstanding principals in the diocese. I am truly grateful!”