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Johnna  Hunt  Photo

Principal's Corner

CT Middle School Principal of the Year

Johnna Hunt, principal of Hillside Intermediate School (HIS) in Naugatuck, has been named the 2014 CAS Middle School
Principal of the Year. During her four-and-a-half years as principal, Hunt, with unrelenting support from her staff, has
rescued a school that was plagued by stagnant test scores, high administrator turn-over, staggering achievement gaps for
African American and Hispanic students and low staff morale.
“I am honored and humbled to be named the CAS 2014 Middle School Principal of the Year. This award is a testament to the
outstanding work taking place in Naugatuck schools. I share this award with the amazing faculty and staff of Hillside
Intermediate School and thank them for their unwavering commitment to our students,” Hunt stated upon learning of her
award. “I would also like to thank my husband Steven, our daughters: Taylor, Jordyn, and Sydney, and my extended family
for their love and support. I too wish to thank CAS for this tremendous opportunity.”
In 2009, Hunt was appointed principal of Naugatuck’s then Hop Brook Intermediate School (HBIS), the lowest performing
school in the district. Identified under No Child Left Behind as a “failing” school, HBIS was faced with the threat of
restructuring by the state. Hunt immediately took steps to enhance the social and cultural climate of the school and to build a
positive, supportive relationship between the school and the greater community. When, in 2010, HBIS was relocated to a new
facility, Hunt and her staff seized on the opportunity for reinvention, opening their doors as the new Hillside Intermediate
School. Within three years, HIS moved from the lowest performing school in the district to the highest and recently achieved
the ranking of “Progressing School” under the new state accountability system. The dramatic turnaround can be attributed to
Hunt’s perseverance, can-do attitude, knowledge of pedagogy and visionary leadership. Says Assistant Superintendent
Christopher Montini, “Mrs. Hunt’s positive impact on the HIS community was immediate. Through her commitment and
vision, Mrs. Hunt successfully collaborated with all stakeholders to shape a school culture that embodies academic rigor,
quality relationships and high expectations for all.” Adds community member Tamath Rossi, “I was amazed at Mrs. Hunt’s
ability to turn what could be viewed as a negative situation into a positive one. She enthusiastically promoted the situation as
a positive opportunity for growth not only for her students, but an opportunity for professional growth for herself and her
Hunt leads by example, always exhibiting the characteristics of honesty, respect, and kindness that serve as the foundation of
the close-knit learning community she has built. Rossi states, “In my opinion, it is the leadership and personal and
professional tone that Mrs. Hunt sets that creates the truly meaningful, safe, warm and encouraging educational climate that
Hillside Intermediate School is known for.” Offering a student’s perspective, sixth grader Julia Mariano gushes, “Every child
at Hillside comes to school every day with a huge smile on their face, knowing that they will feel safe and secure in the
environment they are about to enter.”
Hunt is known as a leader who is strong and decisive yet open-minded and responsive, as ever ready to learn and listen as to
guide and instruct. Her warm personality and caring spirit combine with a seriousness of purpose and a strong professional
focus to inspire and energize all those with whom she works. “A leader should be approachable and kind, but also firm and
direct. Johnna definitely nails that!,” says math teacher Karie Stango. “She is not just a principal; she is a mother, sister,
daughter and friend. When doing her job, Johnna pulls from all of these places, and that is what makes her so unique. She
understands when we have to tend to a family matter or when “life” prevents us from being our best. Johnna expects that we
will be the best that we can be but helps us through any “bumps in the road” along the way. This approach makes me want to
achieve great things!”
The students and staff at HIS are not the only beneficiaries of Hunt’s skill and dedication. She has been a prominent leader
within the larger Naugatuck community, currently serving on the Naugatuck Parent School Council and the Naugatuck Town
Committee. She is also a volunteer for the Naugatuck Education Foundation and was a founding member of Residents for
Renovation, the group established to support the renovation of the high school in 2011.