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Regional School District 17 Principal Named National Principal of the Year

Submitted by Kerry Markey, RSD #17


Donna Hayward, Principal, HKHS

(December 2, 2022) – The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has announced Donna Hayward, principal of Haddam-Killingworth High School in Higganum as the 2023 NASSP National Principal of the Year (POY). 

“I am beyond humbled,” said Hayward. “There are so many wonderful educational leaders doing great work every day, so to have been chosen to represent them is a tremendous honor.  My charge this next year is to speak for them, to advocate for our schools and their leaders and, where I can, perhaps even effect positive change.”

“Principal Hayward is a proven leader with an unwavering commitment to her students, families and educators in her school and beyond,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “Donna has innovated strategies to inspire a love of learning and a true sense of belonging in her students and staff. There is no doubt in my mind that Donna will represent the unique perspectives of school leaders and serve as a force to be reckoned with when advocating for the profession.”

Inspired by her own high school principal, Donna Hayward began her professional career as a high school mathematics teacher. In Hayward’s fourth year as principal, Haddam-Killingworth earned the National Blue Ribbon award. Previously, she served as assistant principal and principal of Rocky Hill High School for a decade and Suffield High School for six years. During this time, she markedly increased AP opportunities and standardized test scores and reduced discipline incidents. She has shared her effective strategies at a Connecticut data conference and NASSP’s national conference. In 2006, she was honored as the Connecticut Assistant Principal of the Year.

“The District is pleased and honored that Principal Hayward has received this recognition,” said Regional School District #17 (RSD17) Board of Education Chair Suzanne Sack.  “We are grateful for the positive impact that she has and will continue to have on students and RSD17 and wish her continued success in her role.”

“Donna is truly a courageous leader,” said Jeffrey Wihbey, RSD17 Superintendent of Schools. “She always leads with children’s best interests at heart, and is never afraid to advocate for student-centered decisions.”

“This is a tough time to be an educator and, perhaps especially, to be an educational leader,” Hayward said. “But there is critically important work to do, so we need to be courageous and do the hard things in order that our students, teachers, and school communities thrive.”

About the NASSP Principal of the Year Program

For the NASSP Principal of the Year program, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the Department of Defense Education Activity select one middle level or high school principal to represent their state or department, from whom three finalists are chosen, with one chosen as the National Principal of the Year. The award recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

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