Miguel Cardona, principal of Meriden’s Hanover Elementary School, has been named Connecticut’s 2012 National Distinguished Principal.
Described by Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni as “an exceptional leader” who “brings out the best in his staff and students,” Cardona is known for his insistence on high standards and his single-minded commitment to high levels of student learning, according to an announcement from the Connecticut Association of Schools.
Upon learning of his award, Cardona stated, “I would not have been eligible to receive this prestigious recognition had it not been for the supportive and student-driven environment that Meriden provides. The professionals here understand the importance of supporting one another and aim to focus their energies on what is best for children.”
Cardona joined the faculty of Israel Putnam School in Meriden in 1998. Then in 2003, at the age of 27, he became the state’s youngest principal when he was named to lead Hanover Elementary School. He earned a doctorate from the University of Connecticut in 2011.
In 1998, Cardona was chosen as an Alma Exley Scholar when he was at Central Connecticut State University. Carol Virostek, a former State Teacher of the Year who has served on the selection committee since the beginning, said she wasn’t surprised by this recognition. “All of us on the committee were impressed by Miguel’s talent, his accomplishments and his commitment to education,” she said in an article on the Exley Scholarship website.
Cardona has had an impact as a leader in the Meriden community and statewide. He co-founded the Meriden Coalition for Educational Excellence, a two-year-old pro-education advocacy group, which has united community members in support of education funding for the Meriden schools. He co-chaired a task force formed by the Connecticut Legislature to address the academic achievement gap in the state’s schools.
The CAS announcement said Cardona has coupled passion and courage with purpose and direction to build a vibrant, nurturing, child-oriented community where student achievement is abounding; teachers are challenged and supported; and parents are fully engaged in the life of the school.
Leading an urban school where 52% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch and 45% are minorities, Cardona has succeeded in boosting the academic achievement of a diverse and challenging student body while at the same time enhancing the social and cultural climate of the school.
Visitors to Hanover are immediately struck by the warm, open and caring environment that Cardona has fostered there. Remarked Associate Superintendent Robert Angeli, “The high academic and behavioral standards at Hanover School are nestled in a welcoming and nurturing school climate focused on the social and emotional growth of the students.”
Cardona has been the driving force behind a number of new programs that have helped to improve student learning at Hanover. Some of his most successful initiatives include the:
- “Million Word Club,” a literacy initiative which rewards students who read one million words with a monthly non-cafeteria lunch with the principal;
- “Leaders’ Literacy Day” which welcomes local leaders into classrooms to read books and discuss their role in the community; and,
- “Success Time,” which allocates 30-minute learning slots during which teachers provide individualized literacy instruction for students.
Cardona will be honored locally by CAS at the “Celebration of Distinguished Administrators” to be held in the fall. In October, he will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a two-day national recognition event along with National Distinguished Principals from each of the other 49 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.