CHESHIRE — The Connecticut Association of Schools announces the selection of the 2020 Principals of the Year. Each year, nominations are accepted for the Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal of the Year awards. The winners are chosen by selection committees consisting of active and retired school administrators.
Congratulations go to:
Joy Wright, Principal, King Philip Middle School, West Hartford, 2020 Middle School Principal of the Year
Dr. Nancy Dowling, Principal, Bunnell High School, Stratford, 2020 High School Principal of the Year
Barbara Silverio, Principal, Isabelle M. Pearson School, Winsted, 2020 Elementary School Principal of the Year
Joy Wright, principal of King Philip Middle School — KP for short — in West Hartford, has been named the 2020 CAS Middle School Principal of the Year. She was nominated for the award by Marc Kotler, assistant principal at KP, and Mike Rollins, secondary science supervisor for the West Hartford Public Schools. Kotler describes her as “an empowering leader who is on a continual path toward growth” and praises her success in building a positive culture and a dynamic learning environment through collaboration, caring and innovative teaching and learning practices.
Upon learning of her selection for the award, Wright remarked, “This award is one that I share with the King Philip Community. I am honored and humbled to represent KP, the West Hartford School District, and the fantastic middle school leaders in the state of Connecticut.”
In her daily work, Wright models the characteristics of compassion, respect and kindness that serve as the foundation of the close-knit learning community she has helped to build at KP. Parent Chris Mending states, “Joy has a created a culture where everyone belongs. That sense of belonging starts with Joy and trickles down. She is approachable and visible. Kids feel seen and known by her. And that is important during the unpredictable middle school years.”
Five years ago, Wright introduced the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER (Recognizing-UnderstandingLabeling-Expressing-Regulating) model at KP and led her staff through its implementation. Since its rollout, RULER has helped transform the climate and culture at KP, creating a safe haven where students feel physically safe and emotionally connected to teachers and to one another.
Ameerah Huie White, a student who graduated from KP last year, recalls: “My principal did so much to make sure that I personally and many other students were comfortable and safe when we came to school. She and all of the teachers, counselors and other administrators did their best to get to know all of the students on a personal level. I noticed that some of my teachers seemed to know my classmates better than I did.”
Wright recognizes that parent engagement can be one of the most effective methods of supporting student achievement, and she warmly welcomes parents into the building and into their child’s learning.
According to Wright, “Parents are our greatest allies. They bring a different skillset, namely, the intimate knowledge of their children.”
Says Mending, “Joy makes parents feel connected and makes sure that we not only know what is going on in the classroom but we have the tools and supports so that we can reinforce our children’s learning at home.”
As self-described “lead learner” at KP, Wright is always challenging herself and her staff to pursue personal and professional growth opportunities.
“We are constantly collaborating so that we can be rising together,” says Wright. “We are not experts. Everything we do is about getting better. We have to constantly grow.”
The exemplar of an adult learner, Wright is an avid reader and is always presenting new information for her staff to consider and digest. Her extensive knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy is surpassed only by her enthusiasm and generosity in sharing that knowledge with others. Wright’s commitment to continued professional growth sets a powerful example for her staff and has a positive influence on instruction at KP.
According to math department supervisor Monique Albani-Ethier, “Joy refers to herself as lead learner, and it is not a gimmick. She lives it. She is constantly connected to and immersed in what is happening in education and she shares her learning with all of us. Learning is at the forefront of everything that she does.”
Wright has been a prominent leader and educational pioneer both at her school and in the larger West Hartford district.
She has spearheaded several innovative programs at KP, including the first middle school Gay-Straight Alliance and the first middle school transition program, Where Everybody Belongs. She also piloted the Collaborative Proactive Solutions process for students with challenging behaviors. Her staff appreciates her intrepid leadership and is inspired to be risk-takers in the classroom.
Says Rollins, “One of the things rarely discussed today about succeeding in a globally competitive society is the need for courage in leadership. I have been working in education since 1979 and Joy Wright is the most courageous leader I’ve ever worked with.”
The Principal of the Year Program, sponsored annually by the Connecticut Association of Schools, was established in 1984 to bring recognition to the principalship and to spotlight the important role of the principal in shaping the educational environment and experiences of children. The program recognizes outstanding school principals who have succeeded in providing high quality learning opportunities for students. These administrators have demonstrated excellent leadership, commitment to staff and students, service to their communities, and contributions to the overall profession of educational leadership.
Each year nominations are solicited for an Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal of the Year. Nominees must submit a written application which is evaluated by a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals. Site visits are conducted at the schools of the two highest rated candidates at each level (elementary, middle and high). Winners are then chosen based upon the outcome of the site visit as well as the quality of the written application. The three individuals selected for recognition are honored by CAS at an awards dinner in the fall.
Additionally, the elementary school winner and either the middle school or high school winner, but not both, are recognized at the national level by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.