August 15, 2018

Essex Resident DeLeeuw Named CT Middle School Principal of the Year

Judy DeLeeuw, Principal of East Lyme Middles School and CT Middle School Principal of the Year.

Judy DeLeeuw, Principal of East Lyme Middles School and CT Middle School Principal of the Year.

ESSEX — Dr. Judy DeLeeuw, Essex resident and principal of East Lyme Middle School (ELMS), has been named the 2015 Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Middle School Principal of the Year. Described by former East Lyme First Selectman and current State Senator Paul Formica as an “inspirational and collaborative leader,” DeLeeuw was selected for her intrepid leadership, her commitment to educational equity, and her what’s-best-for-kids approach to school administration.

She has worked with a broad network of stakeholders to build and sustain a student-centered, engaging, inclusive and academically rigorous school where student achievement is abounding; teachers are challenged and supported; and parents are vital partners in their children’s education.

Reacting to the announcement of her selection, DeLeeuw remarked, “I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this award from CAS. I will celebrate this accolade with those who inspire me to lead each day; the teachers and the students.”

During her eight years as ELMS principal, DeLeeuw has distinguished herself as an industrious and reform-minded leader who cares deeply about the well-being of all members of the school community. According to ELMS Assistant Principal Jason Bitgood, who nominated DeLeeuw for the award, “As a leader committed to change, Dr.
DeLeeuw faces challenges with passion, perseverance and compassion.”

Language Arts teacher Audrone Venduras adds, “A sign at the entrance to ELMS reads, ‘Welcome to Your School.’ This is not an empty slogan but a philosophy which Judy embraces by successfully fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration among students, parents and staff to make ELMS the educational powerhouse that it is.”

Selected as the CAS Middle School of the Year in 2012, ELMS is a dynamic, creative, student-centered middle school where innovation and excellence flourish. The energy and vitality that permeate the school building are a direct result of DeLeeuw’s passion for educational excellence.

The 900-student school facility is divided into Kivas, or “gathering places,” which serve as small, personalized learning communities for students and teachers. This unique design concept supports differentiated learning and interdisciplinary instruction, which facilitate the development of 21st-century skills critical for success in the recently implemented Connecticut Core assessments.

Noted one member of the CAS School of the Year Selection Committee: “ELMS is a cutting edge school. Its interdisciplinary units are far-reaching and promote authentic learning; and, its eighth grade Capstone projects are the equivalent of research at the college level.”

DeLeeuw works tirelessly to maintain a vibrant, caring, student-centered culture which allows all children to grow socially and emotionally as well as academically. A constant presence in the corridors and classrooms, she uses every available opportunity to interact with and build relationships with her students.

Says Venduras, “Walk down the hallway, stop by the cafeteria, or observe bus dismissal and you will see a constant stream of children greeting their principal, for Judy has a remarkable relationship with her kids. She is accessible and genuinely interested in what they have to say.”

Recalls ELMS sixth grader Jack Derry, “During our end-of-the-year assembly, Dr. DeLeeuw joined the staff in a flash mob dance to the song ‘Happy.’ She was laughing and just having fun with everyone. My friends and I appreciate that she truly understands and relates to kids our age.”

One of DeLeeuw’s greatest achievements was her successful transformation of ELMS’ instructional services for special education students. She led her staff in transitioning from special education pullout classes to general education inclusion classes, increasing the amount of time students with disabilities spend with non-disabled peers from 56 to 90 percent. ELMS is now a place where all students learn together in the same well-supported classrooms with the values of tolerance, acceptance and sensitivity as cornerstones for success.

The Principal of the Year Program, sponsored annually by the Connecticut Association of Schools, was established in 1984 to bring recognition to the principalship and to spotlight the important role of the principal in shaping the educational environment and experiences of children. The program recognizes outstanding school 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 Principal of the Year. The winners are chosen by a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals. State principals of the year must demonstrate success in the areas of collaborative leadership; personal excellence;
curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and personalization.

DeLeeuw will be honored by CAS at the “Celebration of Distinguished Administrators” to be held on Oct. 22, 2015.

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