Brentwood Administrator Honored with a Principal of the Year State Award

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Felicia Thomas-Williams

ALBANY, NY (03/26/2020) (readMedia)-- Felicia Thomas-Williams, principal at West Middle School in the Brentwood Union Free School District, has been has been selected as the 2020 New York State Secondary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS to recognize outstanding principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

Thomas-Williams will also represent New York as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS' national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In addition to selecting a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists, NASSP honors all state principals of the year at the Principal's Institute held each year in Washington, DC.

A long-time educator since 1993, Thomas-Williams joined the Brentwood UFSD in 1996, becoming an administrator in 2005, and serving as principal of West Middle School since 2013. West MS is a very diverse community of almost 1,000 students stemming from more than 50 countries, with many of the students experiencing early childhood trauma as a result of their immigration journey. As such, parents are often unsure of the best way to interact with the school, believing that the language and cultural barriers are insurmountable. An empathetic leader, Thomas-Williams takes on this challenge and has implemented many inclusive and innovative programs, strengthening the home-school relationship and developing a truly welcoming culture at the school. A turning point in her understanding came after she had the opportunity to attend a session at the SAANYS 2017 Annual Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences. She later shared her insights with the school's faculty and staff and arranged for embedded workshops with agencies to come work with the students. The impact of learning about and responding to these students' experiences resulted in significant social-emotional gains at West Middle School. Commented PTA board member and parent Maria Heuskin, "As the parent of an academically and emotionally challenged child, I have witnessed first-hand her caring and compassionate nature. She has stood strong with my child, letting him know that throughout his challenges he had a safe place and someone to always turn to." Commented Assistant Superintendent Monique Darrisaw-Akil, "At Mrs. Thomas-Williams' school, differences are celebrated and students are encouraged to showcase their cultural heritage. She uses her creativity to develop programs that engage students and parents."

Thomas-Williams is also active in her community, working with organizations such as the Special Olympics, the Parent Academy to foster positive relationships with parents, serving as community co-chair of My Brother's Keeper, and serving as an executive board member of the Brentwood Principals and Supervisors Organization. She is also a member of the board of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a former member of the board of directors for the Wheatly Heights Mother's Club, a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, as well as being active in the Long Island Association for Curriculum and Development, the Long Island Black Educators, and more. Commented Brentwood South Middle School Principal Bergre Escorbores, "In addition to the myriad of daily mandates a principal must complete, she has gone above and beyond with several endeavors. She is a founding member of the Harvard Instructional Rounds protocol in the district and she pioneered efforts to initiate the My Brother's Keeper program for Brentwood."

Commented NYS Senator Monica Martinez, "Felicia Thomas-Williams is an individual I hold in the highest regard. She is a loyal, dedicated, and hard-working individual. Her talents and abilities prove her capacity to bolster the success of anything she does."

Thomas-Williams received her bachelor of science in American studies from SUNY Old Westbury, her master of science in special education from Long Island University, and her certificate in school district administration from Touro College.

Thomas-Williams will be honored for her accomplishments at an awards ceremony at a later date. As the NASSP New York State Principal of the Year, Thomas-Williams is now a candidate for the award of National Principal of the Year, an award sponsored by NASSP.

SAANYS represents nearly 8,000 school administrators, supervisors, and coordinators. As a professional association, SAANYS is committed to providing direction, service, and support to the membership in their efforts to improve the quality of education and leadership in New York State schools. SAANYS is affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).