MERIDEN — Students and staff at John Barry School gathered into the dimly lit gymnasium Friday afternoon and waited patiently to receive a special announcement from School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni.
Once Benigni was able to get the excited crowd calmed down, he announced that John Barry Principal Elsie Torres-Brown had been named the William Cieslukowski Outstanding First-Year Principal of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Schools Elementary Level. Torres-Brown was overwhelmed by cheers and applause from students and staff who were pleased to hear the news.
In early September, school administration nominated Torres-Brown for the award. A lengthy application had to be filled out and had to be submitted by Sept. 7. On Thursday, staff found out Torres-Brown was the lucky winner.
“I was shocked and overwhelmed,” Torres-Brown said as students filed out of the gymnasium and back to class. Some had to give their principal a congratulatory hug before finishing up the school day.
Torres-Brown was told by administration on Thursday she won the award, but teachers, staff and students were finding out for the first time Friday afternoon.
The first thing Torres-Brown did when she found out was call her daughter, a freshman at Platt High School who was excited for her mother’s accomplishment.
“To me, it’s just all about the kids,” Torres-Brown said. “It’s a testament to John Barry School, to the staff to the students and to the community. Without them we would not be able to achieve this level of success.”
Torres-Brown became principal at John Barry last year. The 1995 Maloney graduate started teaching at Roger Sherman School and then taught first grade at Hanover School. She spent three years as the instructional associate at Hanover School before becoming John Barry’s principal.
“It’s a great honor for Elsie,” Benigni said. “It’s credit to the students, staff and families.”
Other administrators in the school system have received awards from the Connecticut Association of Schools in the past. Benigni said such awards are a testament to the education and leaders in the school system.
“Elsie is a terrific candidate,” Benigni said. “She brings passion and energy to the school. She truly loves being with the students.”
Torres-Brown also leads the second elementary school in the school system to take on extended day programming, which provides students with at least 90 minutes of extra learning time a day. Casimir Pulaski School started the program last year.