CAS Outstanding First-Year Principals

By Regina Birdsell, Assistant Executive Director

2013 Outstanding First Year Principals (left to right): Elementary School – Elsie Torres-Brown; Middle School – Anthony Menard; High School – Alan Strauss

The Connecticut Association of Schools is pleased to announce that Ms. Elsie Torres-Brown, principal of John Barry Elementary School in Meriden, Mr. Anthony M. Menard, principal of East Hartford Middle School, and Mr. Alan Strauss, principal of The Gilbert School in Winsted, have been selected as the recipients of the William Cieslukowski Outstanding First-Year Principal Award for 2013- 2014. These awards recognize first-year principals who have had a positive impact on their school and/or district and have demonstrated exemplary instructional and organizational leadership, a willingness to take risks, and the ability to overcome adversity.

Elementary award recipient Elsie Torres-Brown, principal of John Barry Elementary School in Meriden, was nominated for the William Cieslukowski First-Year Principal Award by Dr. Miguel A. Cardona, performance evaluation specialist, and Ms. Lynda Gelineau, instructional associate. In their nomination, they cited, “In addition to the measurable indicators of success, the intangibles that cannot be measured are also why we have chosen to submit Ms. Elsie Torres-Brown as the most deserving candidate. If there were tangible ways to measure hope, inspiration, and the ability to represent all that is good about one’s school community, Elsie would top the scale. Elsie’s love of education can be best described in one word – kids. Elsie is a visionary and a risk-taker, willing to blaze new trails for her students even if it disrupts conventional practices.”

As a risk-taker, Elsie Torres-Brown entered the building as a young novice and embarked on a new K-3 literacy partnership with UCONN. In addition, she strengthened the collaborative team approach to data driven processes and bolstered the intervention and enrichment offerings for her students. As if that were not enough for a first-year principal, she quickly developed and completed the process of an extended day for all students at John Barry Elementary School. She focused heavily on improving the processes aimed at promoting student success and the results are very promising.

Middle Level award recipient Anthony M. Menard is the principal of East Hartford Middle School. In her recommendation, Math Coach Jamie Pitkin cited, “Mr. Menard’s leadership has had a profound impact and influence on me personally and on our entire school. We are very fortunate to have Mr. Menard as our leader. In the short period of time that Mr. Menard has assumed the role of principal at our school, he has exceeded the limits of ordinary performance and has proven to us that he truly is our Super Leader. Mr. Menard’s strong message and demand that our students receive a world-class education were followed by action steps – action steps that were characterized by boldness, exactness, and follow through. He serves as an inspiration to all of us in the pursuit of excellence in education.”

Through Mr. Menard’s efforts and action steps, he restructured schedules, improved a school-wide writing initiative, improved communication, fostered focus on school pride, facilitated extensive school/ family /community connections, and reconfigured the middle-school team model. Anthony is described as a man of conviction and is dedicated to making the middle school experience a tremendous one for each and every student. According to David Caruso, assistant principal, “He listens and takes time to make decisions that are best for students. He understands the challenges that staff and students face and is sensitive to their needs. The passion and inspiration he brings to the school is contagious and has resulted in a staff that is eager to come to work and students that love being here.”

High School award recipient Alan J. Strauss is principal of The Gilbert School School in Winsted and was nominated for the William Cieslukowski First-Year Principal Award by Dr. Anthony Serio, Superintendent of Winsted Schools. Dr. Serio, in his recommendation, cited, “Mr. Strauss has demonstrated his ability to motivate students to believe in themselves by initiating a number of campaigns to build selfesteem. Mr. Strauss believes that one must practice what he/she teaches. Mr. Strauss is by far the best instructional leader that I have encountered. He is the most innovative and forward thinking educator that I have had the pleasure to work with. His understanding of educational philosophy has been brought to life in The Gilbert School.”

Alan Strauss is described as having high expectations, demands respect, promotes student success, and is a team player who is also dedicated to students. In his first year, Alan has reorganized the school schedule, participated in a NEASC accreditation, secured a grant for iPads for all staff and students in grades 11-12, and secured an agreement with Niki University and the school store run by DECA Club students, all in the name of improvement which included improved AP, CAPT, and CMT results. Mr. Strauss, according to Joleen Pillar, library media specialist, is a man “having the energy of a tornado, the excitement of a roller coaster, the enthusiasm of a fanatic, and willpower I have never seen before. His “Yes- We-Can and We-Will” attitude has changed the culture and climate of this school forever. We look forward to coming to school each day.”