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Award-Winning Barlow Principal Sets the Bar High

EASTON, Conn. – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s remark this week that “millions of kids are getting a third world education” didn’t set well with Joel Barlow High School Principal Thomas McMorran.

“That may be true in some places, but not here," said McMorran, who has just been named high school principal of the year by the Connecticut Association of Schools. "Our kids get a superior educational opportunity.”

That opportunity stems from McMorran’s role as a principal who works closely with students and teachers. “My job is to maintain a positive and productive community, being highly visible with students and making sure the teaching staff is bringing the best service to kids.”

McMorran is renowned for interacting with students. “I’m here before students come off the bus in the morning and make a point of being out in the hallway several times a day to talk to students and hear what they’re excited about,” he said. “I go to athletic competitions to cheer them on and spend Wednesday mornings in the classroom so I can see the real focus on what happens between teachers and students.”

He also teaches a philosophy elective class for seniors.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bernard Josefsberg said McMorran “deserved the award because of his high academic standards. He works with staff, builds a relationship with students and enjoys the respect of the community. Joel Barlow would be a very different place if not for him.”

McMorran, who has been Barlow’s principal for five years, also was listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers nine years in a row when he taught in Ridgefield, Newtown and New Fairfield. And he’s not about to sit on his laurels.

“There’s lots of work to accomplish over the next several years," he said. "We’ve seen better preparation from K-8s on Connecticut Mastery Tests and reading and writing skills, so we can include more kids in high rigor courses. We also want to design more programs to engage kids at all ability levels, bring more technology options and develop a drama program so there are more class options.”

The winner the state’s Principal of the Year award will compete for national honors. In July, finalists will be chosen for the MetLife National Association of Secondary School Principals' Principal of the Year Award, and the winner will be selected in September.

Karen Packtor, assistant executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, said McMorran is “an incredible candidate who has a great shot at it,” but will have trouble winning because this year’s winner was Michael Foran from New Britain High School “and they might be less inclined to give it out to the same state two years in a row.”

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