Reston, VA—At the start of National Principals Month, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) today named David Arencibia, John Briquelet and Donna Hayward as finalists for the 2023 NASSP National Principal of the Year award. This annual award recognizes outstanding secondary school principals’ exemplary contributions to their schools, staff, students and the profession.

David Arencibia, Colleyville Middle School, Colleyville, TX

Dr. David Arencibia has taught, coached and served as an administrator at all secondary levels in his 22 years of education. As an assistant principal, Dr. Arencibia was named the Texas Region 11 Assistant Principal of the Year. He is currently principal of Colleyville Middle School, which has received several accolades and distinctions under his leadership, including being named a Texas School to Watch, a Nationally Recognized Model Campus and a National PTA School of Excellence. Dr. Arencibia helps his school achieve excellence by focusing on the core values of positivity, team, strengths and growth mindset. By modeling these core values, the school encourages students to excel both inside and outside of the classroom.

John Briquelet, Whitney High School, Cerritos, CA

John Briquelet is the founding chancellor of Oxford Preparatory Academy’s new middle school. He is beginning his 34th year as a public educator and his 16th as a secondary principal, and he has served with distinction as the leader of three other campuses, including Whitney High School, U.S. News and World Report’s #1 high school in California and #14 in the nation. While serving the Wildcats, Mr. Briquelet provided students and staff with impactful anti-bias training and opened access to advanced coursework to all students, thereby creating a more equitable and inclusive school culture that is a model for others across California. Ultimately, Mr. Briquelet has brought about profoundly positive, systemic change on every campus he has served, improving students’ academic performance, increasing graduation and college admission rates and reducing suspensions and expulsions. He continues to find great joy in his mission to ensure that every student reaches their potential.

Donna Hayward, Haddam Killingworth High School, Higganum, CT

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.

“Dr. Arencibia, Mr. Briquelet and Ms. Hayward are three exemplary principals who lead their school communities with a laser focus on equity and excellence,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “From creative strategies to manage behavior to intensive learning supports, these school leaders have built strong cultures that prioritize academic excellence and student well-being. I’m excited to honor them and their colleagues around the country for rising to the challenge of the times in meeting the needs of our students and educators.”

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. 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.

The 2023 NASSP National Principal of the Year will be selected from among the finalists and announced November 10th at a gala in Arlington, VA. To read more about each of the principals of the year, visit

These finalists led their schools to great success despite massive 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 finalists are available upon request.