CAS Names 2024 Schools of the Year

Cheshire (CT) — The Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) is pleased to announce the selection of the 2024 Elementary and Middle Schools of the Year. CONGRATULATIONS to:

  • Natchaug Elementary School, Windham – Jeannine Enamait, Principal
  • Mabelle B Avery Middle School, Somers – Margot Martelo, Principal

Each year nominations are solicited for the Elementary and Middle School of the Year awards. 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 and middle). Winners are then chosen based upon the outcome of the site visit as well as the quality of the written application.



Natchaug Elementary School in Windham has been named the 2024 Connecticut Association of Schools Elementary School of the Year. This recognition underscores Natchaug’s unwavering commitment to excellence in education and its dedication to fostering a vibrant, inclusive learning environment.

At Natchaug School, a palpable aura of joyfulness permeates every corner of the campus, from the classrooms to the hallways. Upon entering the school, visitors are greeted with an infectious sense of happiness and enthusiasm shared by students, teachers, paraprofessionals, and custodial staff alike. This atmosphere of joy reflects Natchaug’s deep-rooted belief in creating a nurturing and uplifting space for all members of the school community.

Minority students comprise 78% of the student body at Natchaug; and, over 50% of the students are multi-lingual learners. Additionally, all students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch services. The faculty actively contributes to fulfilling the district’s objectives by delivering challenging academic programs and designing activities that foster character development, cultivate diverse interests, and enhance social aptitude. They employ innovative approaches to ensure that every student, regardless of transportation constraints or familial obligations, has equal access to extracurricular opportunities beyond regular school hours.

Central to Natchaug’s success is its impressively diverse staff, which includes several international teachers. This rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds enhances the educational experience for students and underscores Natchaug’s commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion. During the site visit from the CAS visiting committee, one teacher voiced the sentiments of the entire Natchaug team. “We recognize that we have the opportunity to change children’s lives.”

Natchaug’s innovative programs, such as the X-block for students in grades 3-5 and the Dos Rios dual language program, further exemplify its commitment to providing students with diverse learning opportunities. The X-block allows students to pursue their passions and build relationships with teachers, while Dos Rios promotes bilingualism and cultural competence through 50% Spanish and 50% English instruction. Additionally, the school uses project-based learning to support the curriculum with real-life engaging scenarios that students work to problem-solve through project creation.

Parent engagement and family support services are pillars of the Natchaug community. The newly established Natchaug Community Resource Hub offers a myriad of resources, including free English language classes, winter clothing assistance, and parent education programs such as People Empowering People (PEP), parent education classes that allow parents and caregivers to earn college credit at UConn and provides child care services for the parents who take the classes. Furthermore, Natchaug’s community partnerships ensure that students and families have access to essential support services.

Natchaug’s adoption of the Responsive Classroom model has been transformative, leading to a significant reduction in disciplinary incidents and a focus on social-emotional learning. By embracing this approach, Natchaug has created a safe, nurturing environment where students thrive academically and emotionally.

When informed of the award, Principal Jeannine Enamait said, ” I am so proud of our school being recognized by CAS as the Elementary School of the Year. This award is a celebration for our whole community; our engaged students, our amazing staff, and our supportive parents and community partners. Many wonderful things happen every day at Natchaug School, we are so excited that CAS was able to witness it!

Natchaug Elementary School sets a shining example of excellence in elementary education, and its impact extends far beyond the walls of its classrooms. As the 2024 Connecticut Association of Schools Elementary School of the Year, Natchaug continues to inspire and uplift students, families, and educators alike.



The Connecticut Association of Schools proudly announces that Mabelle B Avery (MBA) Middle School in Somers is the recipient of the 2024 Middle School of the Year Award for the state of Connecticut. This prestigious recognition is a testament to Mabelle B Avery Middle School’s commitment to excellence and innovation, and to creating a supportive learning environment for all students.

MBA stood out among the nominees for its outstanding best practices, particularly in the areas of curriculum alignment, student services, equity and inclusion, and personalized learning.

Enhanced communication within the entire school community regarding global concerns allows the staff to broaden their understanding of the challenges faced by today’s youth and strengthen their connections with families. Collaborating with the local prevention council, the school has proactively distributed Operation Parent Handbooks to each family, serving as a valuable resource for navigating the complexities of parenting in the modern world. Parents’ feedback about the support they receive from the school in addition to the partnerships offered was very positive. During the site visit by the CAS visiting committee, three parents teared up when talking about how their child(ren) are supported in school. “I didn’t know how much I needed them until my child was here,” said one parent.

Another area where MBA shone was in their efforts with annual themes that guide their interactions and educational focus each year. Past themes, such as “Kindness,” “Balance and Respect,” and “Maximize the Value of Self,” have influenced the approach to student development. This year, the chosen theme of “Leave IT Better than You Found IT,” encourages individuals to consider the broader context of “it” – whether it be their environment, the community, relationships, or even personal growth. The theme is visible in all aspects of the school from the classrooms to the common areas as well as integrated into Advisory and in daily conversations. This theme fosters a sense of responsibility and empowerment, inspiring positive actions and contributions in various aspects of life. When the visiting committee met with students, the students were able to clearly articulate how the theme of the year impacts them and how it has caused them to be more aware of their own personal growth.

In terms of curriculum, MBA has adopted research-based approaches aligned with standards and assessments. While the curriculum alone is not set apart from other schools in the state, the implementation of diverse instructional methods and professional development for teachers showcase the school’s commitment to preparing students to meet high educational standards. And while SBAC scores are not the driving force for change, the cohort growth of SBAC scores has helped move the school out of Focus School status where they were in 2019 to the level of achievement they are currently reaching.

Additionally, the school’s dedication to student services goes beyond the typical, with an extensive array of clubs, support services, and community engagement initiatives, always with an emphasis on equity and inclusion. The strong focus on equity and inclusion is evident in initiatives such as diversity training, diverse text inclusion, and addressing challenges with restorative practices. The school’s collaboration with the CREC Open Choice Program and efforts to support economically disadvantaged families further contribute to a more inclusive community. The work that has been done to include all students in the school community was reflected in the conversations between staff and the visiting committee, but Assistant Principal Hannah Dill stated there was more work to do while emphasizing that the work will never be done.

The personalized learning environment at MBA is driven by collaborative leadership and a commitment to professional learning communities. The school’s engagement in visioning work, the implementation of learning stances, and collaborative efforts to discuss and improve grading practices demonstrate a cohesive and supportive school culture.

Principal Margot Martello was elated about the recognition, saying, “It is such a privilege to work alongside this MBA Team! The honor of earning the CAS Middle School of the Year Award is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and professionalism of our staff who show an unending commitment to partnering with the community and helping our students grow academically, behaviorally, and emotionally. I am grateful that our team has been recognized for this commitment.”

The Connecticut Association of Schools congratulates Mabelle B Avery Middle School on this well-deserved recognition.

Click here to find out more about the successful programs and practices that garnered MBA this prestigious award.