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Award Notification:  Amber Brown (VA '15)

Featured in this video:  Amber Brown (VA '15)
Chesapeake, VA   |    Dec 11, 2015
Hugo A. Owens Middle School

Virginia's 2015-16 Milken Educator is Principal Amber Dortch

There's no doubt about it: It's tough to surprise the principal. "When we're doing a Milken Award, usually the principal is very involved in the planning," said Dr. Steven R. Staples, Virginia's superintendent of public instruction. "We couldn't tell [the principal] that she was the award winner, so it made it more challenging."

So was Amber Dortch, principal at Hugo A. Owens Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia, surprised when she heard her name called as the recipient of Virginia's 2015-16 Milken Educator Award? Indeed she was: "I feel like I planned my surprise birthday party," she said happily. (Dortch celebrated her birthday several days before the notification.)

Dortch was asked to lead Hugo A. Owens Middle School two years ago, when the school's accreditation was in jeopardy. Since Dortch became principal, the school's Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) scores have improved in all core areas (English, math, history and science) and it is in good accreditation standing.

"I can think of no finer person who deserves this honor," said veteran Milken Educator Dr. Deborah Hunley-Stukes (VA '99) of Dortch at the assembly. It was an emotional day for Hunley-Stukes, too: She opened Hugo A. Owens Middle School in 1997 and received her Milken Educator Award as its principal in 1999 in the very same gymnasium.