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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: 17-79
October 31, 2017
Contact: Jonathan Mendick
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Congratulates San Francisco Principal for Winning National Award

SACRAMENTO— State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today congratulated Sunset Elementary School Principal Sophie Lee, winner of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership. The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that Lee is one of eight principals nationwide to win the award, and will be honored during the National Blue Ribbon Schools External link opens in new window or tab. awards ceremony on November 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

“Principal Lee is a great leader. Since assuming her position at Sunset Elementary School in 2002, she has transformed the school into a high-performing, tech-savvy, community that welcomes, celebrates, and honors its diverse students, parents, educators, and school community,” said Torlakson. “Her dedication and creativity produces an atmosphere of collaboration with teachers, staff, and families so they can all help students succeed.” 

Under Principal Lee’s guidance, a parent-teacher committee developed an Instructional Technology Roadmap to ensure all students learn technology skills from typing to creating videos. With PTA assistance, Principal Lee procured equipment for a Technology Lab and 1:1 devices for all students. In addition, all students now attend classes in drama, visual arts, choral and instrumental music, and contemporary dance, reflecting Principal Lee’s belief that the arts enrich the lives of all students.

Named for the second U.S. Secretary of Education, the Bell Award honors exemplary school leaders as part of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the National Blue Ribbon Schools application process. San Francisco’s Sunset Elementary School was recognized as an “Exemplary High Performing School” and was among 23 California public schools honored as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2017.

Lee, an educator for more than 40 years, previously received the San Francisco Mayor’s Principal of the Year award at the elementary school level for the 2014-15 school year. A former public school student, Lee has recently led initiatives to engage parents, to green and beautify the campus, and increase community cohesion at her school.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, May 6, 2019
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