In The News

Palm Springs Middle principal is named best in Dade County

Herald Staff Writer

Allan Bonilla began his first year as principal at Palm Springs Middle School by solemnly rounding up gang members in the cafeteria. Then he invited them to the theater.

The night out five years ago to see Matador, a musical about a bullfighter at the Cocanut Grove
Playhouse, marked the first time many of the boys had left Hialeah. It also established a mutuaI respect that persists to this day between student and administrator. Bonilla's treat-them-as-adults style spelled the end to food fights, graffiti and poor attendance at this school of 1,700 students. On Monday, it earned him the distinction of Dade County's Principal of the Year.

Showered with glittering confetti, Bonilla, 53, was selected from six other final ists at a luncheon at the Omni International Hotel. The former guidance counselor and 30-year educator is the first
middle school principal to receive the honor since the award was created, six years ago.

"It's a very tough grade level that most people tend to shy away from," said Bonilla, who has run middle schools for more than 20 years. "Many of the kids are betwixt and between," he said. "l'm very firm with them, but not punitive. It's like a game to some kids - them against us - and let's face it, they outnumber us: So it has to be us together."

Bonilla received $5,000 from First Union National Bank and a table-top pyramid clock from Herff Jones. The runner-up, Melanie Revman of Coral Gables Elementary, won $2,000. Both received
separate standing ovations from hundreds of staff members, parents and business leaders in the audience.