CAS Announces 2024 Assistant Principal of the Year Award Winners

The Connecticut Association of Schools is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Assistant Principal of the Year Awards. Congratulations to these outstanding administrators!

  2024 Elementary School Assistant Principal of the Year

  2024 Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year

  2024 High School Assistant Principal of the Year


Nicole Vibert, assistant principal of West Woods Upper Elementary School in Farmington, has been named the 2024 CAS Elementary School Assistant Principal of the Year. She was nominated for the award by her principal, Dr. Katherine Blore, and chosen for her commitment and innovation in building a close-knit school community where all members are empowered, engaged and inspired to be their best selves. “Nicole is completely dedicated to creating an environment where learners, adults and students alike, are able to connect, collaborate, and thrive,” says Blore. Adds Farmington Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Scott Hurwitz,“Nicole is constantly on the lookout for ways to make us all better.”

“I am incredibly humbled to receive this recognition,” said Vibert upon hearing the news of her selection. “It was with immense pride that I was able to showcase the work West Woods Upper Elementary School engages in with relation to lifting student voice, and creating welcoming and inclusive environments for all stakeholders.”

The hallmark of Vibert’s leadership is her belief in the power of connection and community to drive achievement. As head of the School Climate Committee, Vibert has implemented several innovative programs and initiatives that prioritize relationships, promote inclusion and foster a sense of belonging among all members of the school community. She introduced “Crew,” a framework that supports social and emotional wellness, character development, and growth for all students and staff. She has also worked tirelessly to incorporate restorative practices, establish consistent communication routines, and strengthen family partnerships, all of which have had a transformative effect on the climate and culture at West Woods. Says Jenna Trudeau, a former teacher at West Woods and currently associate principal of Pleasant Valley Elementary School, “As a direct result of Nicole’s efforts, West Woods is truly a place where all members of the school community feel welcomed and the school climate is one built on supportive and caring relationships.”

Passionate about elevating student voice and promoting agency, Vibert is always looking to create opportunities that allow her students to have ownership of and take responsibility for their educational journey. Under her guidance, students have flourished as leaders, taking on active roles in school projects, community initiatives, and extracurricular activities.

Vibert worked with a group of teachers to establish the “Wildcat Pack,” which, as Blore describes, is “a group of student leaders who spearhead a number of initiatives and model deep learning across settings.” This group wrote and was awarded a local grant to create an outdoor classroom space at West Woods. The space is now used by teachers and students daily for instruction, advisory, and other project-based learning activities.

Vibert’s visionary leadership has not only elevated the academic achievements of the school but has also nurtured a generation of confident and capable future leaders. As one West Woods student put it, “You don’t see an assistant principals like ours every day. Mrs. Vibert is one in a million!”

Vibert’s passion for elevating learning opportunities for her students is applied in equal measure to her staff. The model of a lifelong learner, she has a gift for inspiring adults to new heights of professional learning and growth. Farmington Superintendent Kathleen Greider praises Vibert’s ability to build capacity by “tapping into her teachers’ curiosity and love of learning.” Remarks Blore, “Nicole’s commitment to continuous improvement, and to supporting teachers in their craft, is unmatched. She is finely attuned to the needs of adult learners, and works to provide just-right professional learning opportunities that will allow all to succeed.”


Jarrid Clifton, assistant principal of Timothy Edwards Middle School (TEMS) in South Windsor, is the 2024 CAS Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year. He was nominated for the award by TEMS principal, Candace Irwin, who appreciates his “commitment to excellence and to ensuring the highest quality learning experiences for the students of South Windsor.”

“It is with great gratitude and genuine pride that I receive this award on behalf of the phenomenal students, staff, families, and administrators of South Windsor,” said Clifton when notified of his award. “The South Windsor Public Schools has given me the opportunity to grow as an educator and administrator; and to work collaboratively to create an equitable, welcoming environment for our students and families. I am so fortunate to have been given the chance to help lead this special school and staff and I look forward to what all of them will do in the future. I could not have achieved this recognition without the incredible support of my family – Meg, Silas, and Andrew!”

Clifton is described by his staff as “kind and selfless to the core.” Or, in the words of a group of TEMS seventh graders, “Mr. Clifton is a cool, chill dude with a heart of gold.” He leads by example, always exhibiting the characteristics that comprise the school’s values system, R.O.A.R – Respect, Ownership, Acceptance, and Resilience – which he helped develop and embed in every facet of the school’s operation.

At the heart of Clifton’s success is his steadfast focus on building a safe and inclusive school community that embodies the core R.O.A.R. values and promotes students’ academic success, social and emotional wellness, and sense of belonging. In addition to revamping the safety protocols in place at TEMS, Clifton has spearheaded a number of innovative new student programs that foster academic growth, encourage independence, and develop leadership skills. Through initiatives such as such as Student Alliance for Gender Acceptance (SAGA), Girls in STEM, TEMS Student Council, TE Leaders, Clifton has created a school culture where students feel empowered, confident, connected and free to be their authentic selves. Remarks special education teacher Heather Sloate, “Jarrid’s initiatives promote innovation and customization in learning while ensuring support for diverse student needs, fostering a dynamic and inclusive school environment.”

Passionate about educational equity, Clifton has been a driving force in implementing policies and practices that level the playing field for all students. A founding member of the South Windsor Equity Committee, he advocates tirelessly for resources and opportunities that bridge the gaps, ensuring that every child, regardless of background or ability, has access to a rigorous, high-quality education. He led a full-scale overhaul of the school schedule to promote greater inclusivity and expand academic and enrichment opportunities. As a result of his efforts, all TEMS students – regardless of their abilities or learning needs – now have access to the full array of academic offerings. “Fostering education equity is a continuous, intricate endeavor, and Jarrid is a vital leader in this mission,” praises Sloate.

When designing the new schedule, Clifton incorporated block scheduling to promote student collaboration and project-based learning across the entire building. He also introduced the “WIN” (What I Need) period which provides students with time for both remediation and enrichment. During the WIN block, students can receive personalized, targeted instructional support from teachers. They can also use the time to participate in extracurricular activities that align with their interests and passions. They can also take advantage of the time to receive personalized, targeted instructional support from teachers. As parent Tara Holton points out, “Jarrid gives our kids the right tools to be successful and then lets them fly.”
Clifton is a valued instructional leader and mentor to his faculty and staff, consistently inspiring, guiding, and promoting their growth and development. “He is our strong tower. He is always here for us, providing us support as professionals and as people,” says science teacher Tanya Bynoe. By nurturing a culture of continuous learning, Clifton ensures that his team is equipped with the skills and supports they need to help their students flourish. Says fellow associate principal Frank Leòn, “Jarrid strives to get better everyday and to lead others along with him.”


Paul Lucke, assistant principal of Seymour High School (SHS), has been selected as the 2024 CAS High School Assistant Principal of the Year. He has served in his current role for more than seventeen years, making an indelible mark as a compassionate, approachable, invested, forward-thinking and student-centric administrator. Says Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Compton, “Paul is a visionary instructional leader who showers his love and dedication on the entire Seymour community. He draws kids in, helps them find their passions, and makes a difference in their lives every single day.” Adds SHS Principal James Freund, who nominated Lucke for the award, “I have never worked with another administrator so focused on student growth and development. Paul thinks light years ahead to ensure that our students are prepared for happiness and success in their post-high school journeys.”

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be named High School Assistant Principal of the Year,” said Lucke upon being informed of his selection. “This accolade is not just a recognition of my efforts, but a testament to the commitment of my staff and colleagues and the collaborative spirit of the entire Seymour community. Life is a journey that is filled with many ups and downs. Family, friends, integrity, vision, perseverance and grit are the vehicles that lead to human connection, success, and a fulfilling life. I am thankful for my life experiences, the ups and even the downs, that have led me to this career and the ability to make connections that transform lives.”

Lucke has set a standard of excellence that resonates throughout the entire Seymour community. And everything he does is with a mind to helping students and staff reach their full potential. “Paul is the type of leader who wants to lift everyone around him; he wants bigger and better things for this school and community and is always actively searching for ways to make that happen,” says technology teacher Michael Stock.

Lucke has been at the center of several transformative initiatives to expose students to diverse learning experiences and provide staff with avenues for professional growth. He has single-handedly written and secured grants totaling more than 2 million dollars to help fund new manufacturing, arts, business and technology programing and equipment. He worked with the superintendent and board of education to develop and subsidize five Tardy Officer positions allowing teachers with their 092 certificates to gain administrative experience. He has established meaningful connections with local businesses, organizations, and community leaders, including Griffin Hospital and surrounding ambulance associations. Through these partnerships, the school has gained access to valuable resources, mentorship programs, and internships that enrich students’ overall educational experience and provide engagement beyond the classroom.“Mr. Lucke works 24/7 to expand the opportunities we have and to create new ones,” remarks SHS senior Ethan Elliott.

One of Lucke’s greatest strengths is his ability to make authentic and lasting connections with his students. He gets to know them on a personal level and helps them build upon their interests and strengths. Says SHS teacher Joshua Swetts, “Our assistant principal believes that each individual student should be taught to his or her own strengths. He creates a culture where students feel valued for who they are as it fosters true student individuality.” Jay Hatfield, vice chair of the Seymour Board of Education, praises the positive relationships that Lucke forges with his students.“Paul is not just a 4-year partner for these kids. He is their lifetime partner,” says Hatfield. “Long after students graduate, he makes himself available to them as a resource and a friend.”

Lucke recognizes that not all students are bound for a four-year college and he has implemented groundbreaking programs that cater to the diverse talents and aspirations of all students, ensuring that every individual receives tailored support to thrive in their chosen path beyond high school. In addition to broadening opportunities for non-college-bound students, Lucke has introduced more rigorous academic courses, dramatically expanding the number of Advanced Placement (AP) and dual credit programs available to students. He has worked tirelessly to prepare students for success in both higher education and the workforce. Notes SHS Director of Guidance Melissa Anelli, “Paul’s goal each day is to find ways to set every student on a path to post-high school success.”

Vibert, Clifton and Lucke will be honored by CAS at the “Celebration of Excellence in Educational Leadership” to be held in the fall of 2024.

Assistant Principal of the Year Award Program Background and Selection Procedures
The Assistant Principal of the Year Program, sponsored annually by the Connecticut Association of Schools, was established in 1990 to bring recognition to the assistant principalship and to spotlight the critical role that assistant principals play in the education of our youth. The program recognizes outstanding school assistant 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 Assistant 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 (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), respectively.