A 17-year veteran of the city’s school system, and the person charged with keeping things running following the tragic death of a principal, has been named the Connecticut Association of Schools Assistant Principal of the year. Dana Paredes, who assumed the role of acting principal upon the death of Pam Gardner last month was alerted by letter just before the holiday break.
“On behalf of the Connecticut Association of Schools, I would like to congratulate you on your being selected as our state’s 2019 High School Assistant Principal of the Year. It is a fitting tribute to a woman who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership and an unrivaled commitment to her students, school and community. You were chosen from a pool of gifted administrators, thus giving testimony to your prodigious success as an instructional leader and building manager,” wrote Donna Hayward, chairman of the selection committee.
Parades is one of three assistant principals honored by CAS, the others chosen from the middle and elementary school levels. The honor puts Paredes in the running for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) award. Win or lose, Paredes will be honored at the national conference, scheduled for Boston July 18-20. The dinner honored the state award is scheduled for October.
“We are proud to have such an accomplished administrator representing us in this prestigious awards program, whether or not you are the winner of – or a finalist for – the national award,” wrote Hayward.
For Paredes, the road to the administrator’s chair began in 2001, when she was hired as an English teacher, then taught Spanish as well. In 2007 she was named Department Head for the World Language and English as a Second Language Dept., moving to assistant principal in 2010.
“My philosophy as an assistant principal has always been to try my best to do what’s right for kids. Sometimes you have to make decisions that aren’t popular, but I always keep in mind that if it was the right thing to do for kids then it was the right decision. My philosophy as an acting principal remains the same, but being in this position does require me to look at things with a broader view. This job requires that I always think big picture,” she said.
The task of being assistant principal took on new and personally troubling aspects this year with the illness and eventual death of popular Principal Pam Gardner just weeks ago. Trying to navigate the running of the school along with the grief exhibited by faculty, staff and students was a daunting task.
“Losing Pam last month was tough on everyone, but she left us with the strength to carry forward in the way that she would want us to. Winning this award was definitely a welcome bit of positive news and definitely had a positive impact on the school community. I’ve done my best to guide the school community through this loss, though at times it has been difficult because I’ve also lost a close friend,” she said.
Paredes maintains her allegiance to the city and system are only made stronger by the fact she was nominated for and won the award.
“I’m thrilled to represent West Haven in such a positive way. I love this school, and this community, and am so happy to be able to bring home this award for us,” she said.