Sunrise Ridge leader named Utah’s principal of the year

Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School Principal Sandy Ferrell is presented with the award for Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 14, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Sandy Ferrell, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School Principal Sandy Ferrell was named Middle School Principal of the Year by the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals Wednesday. Sunrise Ridge is located at 3167 S. 2350 East.

Ferrell was privately nominated for the award, which is given to one middle level principal, one high school principal and one assistant principal in Utah.

After the nomination, she attended an interview given by a panel consisting of Utah school principals, a student and a parent, Ferrell said. The interviewers asked about the success of her school including its placement in state assessments as well as her leadership skills.

Ferrell has a long history in the Washington County School District, she said, beginning in 1987 as a teacher in the special education department and then later as a biology teacher. She taught students at both Pine View High School and Dixie High School and was assistant principal at Pine View and Sunrise Ridge before being named principal of Sunrise Ridge during the 2009-10 school year.

Public education is very important to Ferrell, she said, recounting a trip to Uganda where education is only for children whose parents can afford to send them.

Here we value every child,” Ferrell said, “and believe that every child has the right to an education. It is the right thing to do and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Reaction to Ferrell’s award from coworkers and parents is very positive.

Desirae Roden, assistant principal of Sunrise Ridge: My initial reaction is that we are very excited. There is a sense of excitement in the school and an appreciation for everything she does.

She is always the first one here in the morning and the last one to leave. She is dedicated to the student. In our staff meetings her question is always ‘is this what’s best for kids?’ She is always looking at what we can do for the students to be successful not just in school but in life.

Ramona Schwen, PTA president for Sunrise Ridge: I met Sandy three years ago when my oldest child went into 6th grade at Sunrise Ridge. I attended a few PTA meetings and noticed how helpful and active the principal was in the meetings. I was talked into being the PTA president for the 2013-2014 school year and became more acquainted to Sandy as we worked closely to put on events and programs for the kids at the school. She would organize and inform teachers so quickly that it made our job as a PTA so easy.

I volunteered to be the PTA president again for this year because of the relationship I had built with the office staff and the help we always received from Sandy. It is so important to her to get news out to the parents and get suggestions from them and keep them informed. All the mom’s I’ve spoken to about their kids at Sunrise Ridge love how friendly and kind she is and how she makes everyone feel important. In all the years I’ve worked closely with Sandy I’ve never seen her upset or frustrated. She has an incredibly positive attitude and handles hard situations so well.

Above all else Sandy loves being the principal at Sunrise Ridge and it shows through everything she does. She is always out in the halls talking with and encouraging the kids, meeting with parents to help solve problems, and giving up more hours of her own time than most people I know. Her love for this school shows on her face and in her attitude everyday. Sandy is an amazing person and an inspiration to all.

District Superintendent Larry Bergeson said that the accolades are very well-deserved, adding that Ferrell runs a very good school, so good that it is one of the top science schools in the state.

Part of that success comes from an intervention program known as “Thunderbolt Time” which was implemented from the school’s beginning, Ferrell said. It is designed to help struggling students and their teachers address the educational needs of that student during school hours.

In addition to helping struggling students, “Thunderbolt Time” also allows for students who are succeeding to take incentive classes such as robotics and participate in the Lego League, Ferrell said.

Though Ferrell is grateful for the award, she was quick to point out that it wasn’t achieved on her own. She praised her staff and the school community and thanked them for surrounding her with great people.

“I have been getting up and going to school for 54 years – since I was in kindergarten,” Ferrell said. “I am passionate about public education. I love being around young people, they make my life rich.”

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  • Stacy January 15, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Well deserved. She is an amazing Principal.

  • My Evil Twin January 15, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    There just isn’t anybody more deserving of this award! It’s great to see her recognized for the outstanding educator, (and person,) that she is!

    • EViL TWINS MOMMY January 16, 2015 at 1:20 am

      are you sure about that you pathetic lunatic… I bet you’ve heard that before LOL.!

  • Betty January 15, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I beg to differ. What is “privately nominated?” Her leadership skills have much to be desired.

    • koolaid January 16, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Same thing as the good ole boys club nominations?

    • Somerset January 16, 2015 at 6:26 am

      @Betty, you are free to express your opinion, but others obviously disagree. She is great!!

    • Brian January 16, 2015 at 6:39 am

      Privately nominated means that a student, parent, or teacher nominated her for the award. It’s pretty standard for awards like this. They don’t just go through the phone book trying to find a principal to give the award to. As for her leadership skills, I can’t say. But the kids I know that attend Sunrise Ridge love it and do very well in school. When we held the FLL Lego competition out there she was awesome. We almost drove our daughter out there (from the other side of the county) to avoid our daughter going to Tonaquint, but couldn’t make the logistics work. About half our older daughters teachers at Tonaquint were amazing, but the experience as a whole was negative. There is a huge need for a leadership change there. It’s very much “my way or the highway”. Be grateful for what you have with Principal Ferrell.

  • Burke January 16, 2015 at 6:57 am

    I would guess that Sandy Ferrell had as more to do with changing lives for good than perhaps any educator in the Washington County School District. She loves people from the inside out. She’s genuine. Congratulations, Mrs. Ferrell. (and thanks for feeding those hungry kids in the hallway back in 1998)

  • Betty January 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    But as an administrator, there is MUCH to be desired!

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