A Northwest Philadelphia principal has been named one of the city's top educators.

Stephen Brandt, who heads Roxborough High School, recently received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership.

The honor, funded by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation of Philadelphia, is handed out annually to principals in the School District of Philadelphia "who have made significant leadership and humanitarian contributions to his/her students, staff and community."

The award specifically recognizes principals who, among other things, have demonstrated "compassion for other humans by their acts of kindness" and ensured that "conditions and incentives fully support teaching and learning to ensure all students are well prepared to succeed in the 21st century."

Validating efforts 

Roxborough High will receive $15,000 for academic improvements as part of the award.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Brandt, who arrived at Roxborough in March 2009. "It just validates everything that we have done as a school community here to make Roxborough High School a better place."

Since returning to his alma mater, Brandt has worked hard to transform the neighborhood school's climate and attitude towards academics.

And his efforts have made a difference. 

Roxborough is no longer on the state's "persistently dangerous" schools list. For the first time since Brandt took over at Roxborough, the school's entire senior class – all 99 students – has been accepted to college.

'A father figure for students' 

Mark Scott, who has taught English at Roxborough for a decade, was among the students and staff members who nominated Brandt for the award.

"I have always liked working with students, but I haven't always liked my job," said Scott. "Since he's been here, this has become a building that I look forward to coming to every day. I get excited about coming to work here."

He added, "the climate has been so radically changed that now instead of having to be a disciplinarian and having to be a heavy hand and dragging my kids through learning, I feel like I can just have fun with them and that the kids feel like they're part of a family."

He called Brandt "a father figure for students in the building."

Scott also nominated Brandt for the award last year.

Recognizing progress 

Brandt said he thinks the school's continued success over the last three years may have contributed to him being honored in 2013.

"When we first got here it was the shock value," Brandt said. "It was kind of like, 'Roxborough is turning around? What?' and then last year I think people started to take notice, saying, 'Oh wow. There's a lot of good things happening at Roxborough.' And then, now, for a third year having that established, people are noticing."

A total of seven principals were honored with the Lindback Award this year, including R. Victoria Pressley at John F. McCloskey Elementary School in Cedarbrook.

In mid-December, the School District of Philadelphia announced that it wanted to close McCloskey as part of its Facilities Master Plan. A total of 37 city schools were on the chopping block at the time.

Two months later, the district removed 10 schools from that list, including McCloskey.

The group will be publicly honored during a ceremony on April 9 at the Prince Music Theater in Center City.