Reston, VA—The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) announced that Donna Hayward, principal of Haddam Killingworth High School, Higganum, CT is being recognized as the 2023 NASSP National Principal of the Year (POY). The announcement comes during NASSP’s Illuminate celebration, bringing together school and student leaders to build their advocacy skills and address issues within their schools and beyond.

“Principal Hayward is a proven leader with an unwavering commitment to her students, families and educators in her school and beyond,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “Donna has innovated strategies to inspire a love of learning and a true sense of belonging in her students and staff. There is no doubt in my mind that Donna will represent the unique perspectives of school leaders and serve as a force to be reckoned with when advocating for the profession.”

Inspired by her own high school principal, Donna Hayward, principal of Haddam Killingworth High School, began her professional career as a high school mathematics teacher. In Haywards’ fourth year as principal, Haddam Killingworth earned the National Blue Ribbon award. Previously, she served as assistant principal and principal of Rocky Hill High School for a decade and Suffield High School for six years. During this time, she markedly increased AP opportunities and standardized test scores and reduced discipline incidents. She has shared her effective strategies at a Connecticut data conference and NASSP’s national conference. In 2006, she was honored as the Connecticut Assistant Principal of the Year.

For the NASSP Principal of the Year program, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools and the Department of Defense Education Activity select one middle level or high school principal to represent their state or department, from whom three finalists are chosen, with one chosen as the National Principal of the Year. The award recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

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Hayward led her schools to great success despite unprecedented challenges facing school leaders and their students. The recent NASSP Survey of America’s School Leaders and High School Students found:

  • One out of two school leaders claim their stress level is so high they are considering a career change or retirement.
  • Three-quarters of school leaders (73%) and students (74%) report they needed help with their mental or emotional health last year.
  • The majority of school leaders (70%) and students (51%) report they have personally been threatened or attacked, physically or verbally during the past year.

Photos of Hayward are available upon request.