The e-mail invitation that went out to educators from the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) began with the question: "Do you work with an outstanding middle or high school principal? If your answer is “YES,” we encourage you to nominate him or her for the Principal of the Year Award!"
Someone read that question and knew that they could to take advantage of this opportunity to provide state and national recognition to a deserving school administrator. They decided to go online and nominate Mrs. Johnna (Minicucci) Hunt, the beloved principal of Hillside Intermediate School, and on Feb. 13 Mrs. Hunt was informed that she was chosen by CAS as the 2014 Middle School Principal of the Year for Connecticut. She now will also represent Connecticut in the competition for the National Principal of the Year Award sponsored by National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and MetLife.
CAS explains that "the Principal of the Year Award Program was established in 1984 to bring recognition to exemplary secondary school principals (CAS sponsors a separate recognition program for elementary level principals) and to increase public awareness of the critical role that principals play in the education of our youth. The program is designed to honor outstanding principals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, a passion for educational excellence, a commitment to their students and staff, and service to their communities. All candidates must be members of CAS and NASSP and have served as a principal at one or more middle level or high schools for at least three full school years.
Each year nominations are solicited for a Middle Level and High School Principal of the Year. The winners are chosen by the CAS Awards and Recognition Committee, a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals. In making its decisions, the Awards and Recognition Committee will consider each candidate’s professional qualities as outlined in the application, his/her recommendations, and his/her contributions to the profession.
Both the middle and high school honoree will be recognized locally by CAS and nationally by NASSP. They will also represent Connecticut in the competition for the National Principal of the Year Award sponsored by NASSP and MetLife. (NASSP does not include elementary schools.)
The National Principals of the Year (one middle level and one high school) will each receive a $5,000 grant; the finalists (two middle level and two high school) will each receive a $1,500 grant. For additional information on the NASSP/MetLife National Principal of the Year program, visit the NASSP website."
Mrs. Hunt gave me permission to share the news of this honor, noting that the prospect of representing Connecticut at the national level is "pretty amazing and I am still in shock with it all." I was not surprised when she added that "this award is a true testament to the amazing work of the faculty and staff at Hillside. They are an exceptional group and I am so happy to be able to share this award with them."
In fact, her Facebook page is filled with congratulations from principals, teachers (some of whom taught this future principal) and parents. One message called her "our hometown hero." Hillside secretary Susan Paradis posted "Congratulations Johnna....hard and dedicated work always pays off. I am proud to be a part of it all."
Hillside Team Harvard Content Area Studies teacher Andrea Mariano Raff used to babysit for her current principal when she was an infant, so she has clearly known her for a very long time. I haven't known Mrs. Raff quite that long, but she tells me that "Johnna is an extremely dedicated and compassionate administrator. She wants the best for our Hillside 'family' and the students, staff, and parents see this commitment on a daily basis. We are all very proud of her and can't think of anyone more deserving!"
A post by Mrs. Hunt's husband, Stephen Hunt, was the way I found out about this well-deserved honor. "I am so very proud of my wife," wrote Mr. Hunt. "While this award recognizes her individually, I know that Johnna intends to share it with the entire staff at Hillside Intermediate School. She is very fortunate to have an amazing staff at Hillside and Johnna could not have been successful without each and every one of them...I know how hard you work each and every day in order to achieve the results that you do. The girls and I are extremely proud and we love you."I have had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Hunt on the TEVAL committee and I could not be happier for her. Whether she is presenting the improvements at Hillside at the last Board of Education meeting, speaking about a show presented by the Drama Club, or hosting the annual Halloween dance, it is clear that she is an outstanding administrator. I am so proud that she will be representing the district at the national level; she is already a winner in my eyes.