Forty strong candidates applied to be Staples High School’s next principal.
But after winnowing the field to 6 men and women, and then 2, the decision — first by a committee of parents, educators and community members, and tonight by the Board of Education — was unanimous.
Stafford Thomas Jr. is the new leader of Westport’s high school.
He’s got sparkling credentials.
Interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey introduced Mr. Thomas at today’s Board of Ed meeting as “an exceptional leader (with) outstanding interpersonal and communication skills.”
He began his career as a social studies teacher at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York. After making a strong mark as an administrator in Barrington, Rhode Island and Mystic, Mr. Thomas was hired 8 years ago as principal of Trumbull’s Hillcrest Middle School.
This year, the Connecticut Association of Schools honored it as Middle School of the Year. The award noted that students, faculty, administrators and parents combined to create a community known for innovative teaching strategies, after-school programs and high academic achievement.
Mr. Thomas graduated from Georgetown University, where he rowed on the crew team. He earned a master’s of arts in education from Brown University, and a dual degree in law (juris doctor) and educational administration (M.Ed.) from Boston College.
In addition to Hillcrest, Mr. Thomas currently teaches courses in education law and finance, and advanced curriculum, at Sacred Heart University. He is also a member of the board of directors with the Connecticut Association of Schools.
Dr. Abbey calls Mr. Thomas “a highly knowledgeable, creative and resourceful leader — one who is well-respected by students, parents and staff.”
In brief remarks, the new principal smiled broadly. He said he feels “very excited and privileged. In the world of K-12 education, there is no better position than this.”
He looks forward to “starting this journey, at a school steeped in tradition. Go Wreckers!”
He continued to smile — and look forward — in a meeting with more than a dozen Staples teachers, who came to hear the announcement. He said, “My door is open.” They responded with applause.
Mr. Thomas succeeds James D’Amico, who heads north to his alma mater, New Fairfield High School, after 3 years at Staples’ helm. Mr. Thomas will begin his new, very important — and exciting — job on July 1.