Previous Visionary Leadership Award Winners
2022 Award Winners
Mary Ellen Engel, Scott Wisniewski, Christopher Turnbull, and Stella Nwanguma received their NJPSA Visionary Leadership Awards during the NJPSA/FEA/NJASCD Fall Conference at the Borgata in Atlantic City on October 14, 2022.
About the Winners
Christopher Turnbull, Principal of Bear Tavern Elementary School in the Hopewell Valley School District, was named Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level; Stella Nwanguma, Principal of Winslow Township Middle School, was named Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level; Scott Wisniewski, Assistant Principal of Wayne Valley High School, was named Visionary Assistant Principal of the Year; and Mary Ellen Engel, Supervisor of Nursing in North Brunswick Township Public Schools, was named Visionary Supervisor/Director of the Year. Each will receive his/her award during the NJPSA/FEA/NJASCD Fall Conference at Borgata on October 14, 2022.
Christopher Turnbull, Principal of Bear Tavern Elementary School, Hopewell Valley School District
As principal of Bear Tavern, Christopher Turnbull has spearheaded several initiatives and encouraged his team to challenge their perception of what is possible, giving them permission to “go big.” During his tenure, Bear Tavern has transformed its lobby into a habitat of trout, tropical fish, hydroponic plants, and a large yellow-bellied slider turtle. The exterior of the building is now an Outdoor Learning Area that involved partnerships with 20 local businesses. In addition, the school has been named an EcoSchools USA Green Flag school, a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Bronze Award winner, and a River Friendly School by the Stony Brook Watershed Institute. He also changed the way morning announcements were made to serve as a gateway into the social-emotional learning curriculum.
Stella Nwanguma, Principal, Winslow Township Middle School
Stella Nwanguma transformed Winslow Township Middle School from being identified by the NJ Department of Education as a “Focus” school in need of improvement into a model school, which is recommended by the NJDOE to area schools as a school to visit. The students experience top-notch new academic programs such as Robotics STEM, Environmental STEM, Graphic Arts, Journalism and Mass Media, TV Production, and Coding and Game Design. Winslow has also won several awards for sustainability, including the Bronze certification and Silver Certification and received the 2020 Middle School Sustainability Champion Award.
Scott Wisniewski, Assistant Principal, Wayne Valley High School
As assistant principal at Wayne Valley High School, Scott Wisniewski has either led or introduced several social-emotional or wellness programs into the school, such as the annual week of respect, Third Party Compliments, Wellness Fair, and a recent grant from the National Council for Mental Health. The activities in these programs have helped to build a positive culture and reduce disciplinary actions and HIB incidents. Due to his efforts, Wayne Valley has earned a Gold Star rating from the Anti-Defamation League for five consecutive years. Wisniewski has also presented NJSBA, TechSpo, and the Garden State Google Summit on SEL activities and how technology is embedded into each activity.
Mary Ellen Engel, Nursing Supervisor, North Brunswick Township School District
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary Ellen Engel was counted on to provide clear, accessible, evidence-based information across multiple platforms to ensure ease of access to all community members. She used technology to capture, analyze, and disseminate accurate data and provide accessible resources and services to ensure healthy, safe, and caring schools. She appeared on local television and presented at Board meetings to educate the school community on return-to-school planning related to health and wellness. In addition, as an Executive Board Member of the NJ State School Nurses Association, she collaborated with nurse leaders throughout the state and shared information with the North Brunswick Leadership Team and school nursing team.
Each winner received $7,000 to be used by his/her school or district, as well as a $1,000 personal award, in addition to other gifts.
2020 Award Winners
Christian Paskalides, Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level Principal, 2020
Late in the 2018-19 school year, the Middle Township District received news that it was eligible to apply for a preschool expansion grant. That’s when Christian Paskalides jumped into action to finalize the application and submit by August 1. He quickly put a phased implementation plan into action, calling for using the seven new classrooms and converting three existing classrooms to make them compliant with the Division of Early Childhood Education’s (DECE) regulations for classroom size and facilities. Then they began the construction in the three classrooms to add bathrooms and additional storage. We launched a critical parent communication component to advertise the “potential” full-day program, and recruited at-risk student populations. The remainder of the summer was dedicated to preparing for the “possibility” of expansion including: 45+ interviews for certified staff, 25+ interviews for paraprofessionals, more than two dozen meetings, writing a comprehensive grant application, creating a professional development plan, ordering new preschool classroom furniture and curriculum supplies, scheduling for both half-day and full-day preschool, conducting multiple parent meetings, registering additional students (for full-day), creating a preschool master and lunch/prep coverage schedule, and so much more. On September 3, they learned that the state had approved our preschool expansion. Just four school days later, they welcomed their first full-day preschool class of 140 students, a full 22 days before the state’s deadline. Christian is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP National Distinguished Principal Award.
Michael Vinella, Ph.D., Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level Principal, 2020
As Principal of East Brunswick High School, Mike Vinella ensured that every student and staff member was provided with a Lenovo ThinkPad and every teacher developed an online classroom using Canvas. They also expanded their relationship with Middlesex County College through the Pathways Program. This has allowed hundreds of students to take college level courses at EBHS and MCC with a savings to parents of over $1 Million. Students are able to graduate from EBHS with an associate degree or simply a handful of college credits. Also, through the help of an East Brunswick Education Foundation grant, the multiple disabilities program was able to open a school store run by MD and LLD students with the collaboration of our FBLA and NHS students. Michael is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Principal of the Year Award.
Dena Russo, Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level Assistant Principal, 2020
As Assistant Principal of Red Bank Primary School, Dena Russo focused her efforts on the development of Response to Intervention in Literacy. She systematically constructed a tiered system of support with the Literacy Interventionists and Instructional Coaches over the course of five years, and identified students who are at risk and have provided the support necessary for students to reach grade level reading expectations by the end of third grade. All grade levels attend Professional Learning Communities as part of the RTI process to analyze student data and compile frequencies of support for small group and intervention within the classroom. In addition, students requiring intense tier three support are provided daily reading intervention. Another aspect of RTI is linking community partnerships to provide students with extracurricular activities, so she partnered with Members of the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore to establish an outreach program. Over 120 girls signed up for Girl Scouts. As a result of her efforts, in 2015-2016, 65% percent of students ended third grade requiring tier three support. Through a shared vision with her colleagues and numerous community partnerships, 4% percent of students ended third grade requiring Tier 3 support in 2018-2019. Dena is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP National Outstanding Principal Award.
Maria Fabiano, Visionary Principal of the Year, Supervisor/Director, 2020
Maria Fabiano is the Language Arts Supervisor for Grades 6-12 in Elizabeth Public Schools. As a firm believer in evidence, she ensured that ELA 6-12 curricula including weekly pacing guides, aligned instructional resources, professional development, teacher support, non-negotiables were living entities that were continuously assessed and adjusted in order to provide the best possible instruction to her students. To improve student performance among students in Grade 10 in writing, she created a focused plan that included professional development sessions on the Research Simulation Task; including sessions on close-reading strategies, text-based argumentative writing, interacting with media, vocabulary related to informational text and sessions on the 4-point PARCC Rubric for the Research Simulation Task and inter-rater reliability sessions that had teachers evaluate student text-based argumentative writing. These sessions were conducted in after-school meetings, department meetings, professional development days and on Saturday. We also conducted a six-week intensification plan which directed teachers to hone this type of writing each week. As a result of this collective effort, student improvement in the Research Simulation Task component of the NJSLA exceeded that of the State in 2019.
2019 Award Winners
Pamela Hernandez, Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level, 2019
Pamela Hernandez earned the 2019 Visionary Principal of the Year Award as the principal of JFK Elementary School in Jamesburg, and has since taken on a new job as principal of Constable Elementary School in South Brunswick. In order to upgrade the technology at JFK, she ran a marathon and used the funds raised through GoFundMe to buy Chromebooks for all her students. in addition, every classroom in the building now has a fully functioning library. Pamela is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP National Distinguished Principal Award.
Paul Mucciarone, Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level, 2019
Paul Mucciarone is the principal of the Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health and Science. Following a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, Paul began a second career in educational administration. He graduated from the NJEXCEL program for certification and is now the leader in this school that is specifically designed to prepare its students for careers in health care. Paul is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Principal of the Year Award.
Terence Johnson, Visionary Leader of the Year, Assistant Principal, 2019
Terence Johnson is the assistant principal at Cumberland Regional High School. He instituted and runs the Freshman Transition into High School program, in which seniors help incoming freshman learn how to adjust to life in high school. An alumnus and former football player at The Citadel, Terence credits his family with instilling in him the importance of hard work and fairness. In particular, he cites his mother, to whom he donated a kidney 16 years ago, as his inspiration. Terence also received the New Jersey NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year Award.
Dr. JoAnne Negrin, Visionary Leader of the Year, Supervisor/Director, 2019
Dr. Joanne Negrin is the Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual, World Language, Performing Arts at Vineland Public Schools. She instituted an ESL program throughout the district that has been designated as a model program in the state of New Jersey. She travels the state to teach other districts how to implement ESL successfully. She stresses the importance of teaching kids first in their native language, as research has shown this eases the transition to learning in English.
2018 Award Winners
Dumar Burgess, Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level, 2018
Dumar Burgess began his tenure as the principal at Hawthorne Park Elementary in 2010 and discovered an antiquated literacy program in need of an update. To solve this problem, he identified Balanced Literacy Framework as the new literacy program to improve teacher practice. Further, he built a relationship with Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadelphia, which developed a plan for teachers to collaborate and plan together, to use data to implement authentic lessons, and build collegiality, which helped establish an improved climate and culture. Dumar is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP National Distinguished Principal Award.
Dr. Matthew Jamison, Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level, 2018
Dr. Matthew Jamison implemented Professional Learning Communities as principal of Ocean City High School years before their inclusion in AchieveNJ teacher evaluation. Building administrative time for PLCs has enabled the faculty to revise standards, establish common sense assessments, and develop assessment guides through curriculum. Ocean City High School has become a model school for creating Student Growth Objectives and is being studied by Rutgers University for its work in this area. Matt is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Principal of the Year Award.
Tara Oliveira, Visionary Leader of the Year, Assistant Principal, 2018
As assistant principal,Tara Oliveira was instrumental in bringing Google for Education platform to Governor Livingston High School, representing a cultural transition and significant change for how the school communicated with students and staff. She designed a specific administrative folder and sub folders within Google Drive that holds all of the documents and information teachers needs. The project was so successful, she was subsequently charged with bringing Google to other schools in the district. Tara’s colleagues laud her for her infectious energy, enthusiasm, and determination to ensure that every student in the school graduates and succeeds. Tara also received the New Jersey NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year Award.
Tim Conway, Visionary Leader of the Year, Supervisor/Director, 2018
As director of school counseling for Lakeland Regional High School, Timothy Conway helped the school achieve the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Recognition ASCA Model Program (RAMP) award for providing a comprehensive, data-driven, and proactive school counseling program. Lakeland is the only New Jersey school to earn this distinction and serves as a model for other schools attempting to achieve a RAMP award. Over the past eight years, Lakeland has reduced its dropout rate to its lowest in school history, and has increased its average college-going and post-secondary education rates.
2017 Award Winners
Dr. Tammy Bowling Jenkins, Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level, 2017
For 12 years, Dr. Jenkins has served as principal of Sunnymead Elementary, a pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade school in which one out of every five students qualifies for free/reduced lunch. Out of the nine schools in the Hillsborough District, Sunnymead has the highest percentage of students living at or near the poverty level. Despite this challenge, Sunnymead’s students typically perform at the highest levels in the district due to Dr. Jenkins’ leadership and the climate and culture she has built with her faculty and staff. In addition, through creative scheduling and staffing, Dr. Jenkins has created an opportunity for students to receive timely, targeted intervention and/or enrichment every day without disrupting or impacting core subjects. Tammy is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP National Distinguished Principal Award.
John Farinella, Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level, 2017
As the principal of Rahway High School, John Farinella has led two important initiatives: Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) and the Freshman Transition Program (FTP). RFS identifies promising incoming 7th grade students whose parents have not graduated from college and mentors them throughout their high school years. If those students earn admission to Rutgers University, they are able to go tuition free. Mr. Farinella was instrumental in laying the foundation for RFS at Rahway and in helping to secure the financial backing for the program. In addition, FTP has supported all students as they acclimate to high school and focus on their academic life plan. Under Mr. Farinella’s leadership and guidance, Rahway’s FTP has developed into a comprehensive and nationally recognized program. These are just two of the many programs that John has brought to Rahway High School, which was named by New Jersey Monthly magazine as one of the top ten most improved high schools in the state. John is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Principal of the Year Award.
Brad Currie, Visionary Leader of the Year, Assistant Principal, 2017, and National NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year
Brad Currie serves as vice principal of Black River Middle School in Chester and has led several initiatives, including a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, Makerspace, Google Apps for Education, an EdCamp-style in-service day focusing on technology integration. He also relies on the student voice to improve the Chromebook environment through the Chromebook Committee, the Student Roundtable, and the Tech Detectives Club. He is the author of three books — All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities; Personalized PDS: Flipping Your Professional Development; and 140 Twitter Tips for Educators. He is a Google Certified Trainer, a Google Certified Educator, and an Adjunct Professor at Drew University. Brad is also well-known for his effective use of social media, and is one of the creators of #SATCHAT, a weekly Twitter chat for educational leaders. In July 2017, Brad received the National NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year Award.
Monica Carmichael, Visionary Leader of the Year, Supervisor/Director, 2017
Monica Carmichael is credited with rebuilding a broken climate and culture in the Early Childhood Department in Trenton around the concept that “we are a school of fish, moving together with the same outcome in mind” and forming a united strong force within the district and state regarding preschool programming. She supported her team by planning and executing Professional Development days, as well as a Professional Development cycle on leadership trainings at the College of New Jersey. Ms. Carmichael promotes team effort and effectively motivates her staff to attain organizational and school goals and to raise student achievement.
2016 Award Winners
Dr. Denise King, Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level, 2016
Dr. King has served as an advocate for nurturing and sustaining a culture conducive to developing the intellectual, creative and social potential for each learner at B. Bernice Young Elementary School. Dr. King is a true advocate for the underrepresented student and uses data-driven instruction to keep student achievement at the forefront of her agenda. She introduced “Fundations” in all kindergarten classrooms for phonics and phonemic awareness and provided a guided reading approach to literacy instruction within a differentiated classroom environment. Dr. King also ensures a safe and secure environment for her students and was integral in the execution of a safety and security initiative called Project Guardian. She has fostered a family atmosphere among the faculty, staff, students, and parents who universally laud her for making B. Bernice Young an outstanding school where children thrive and have fun while learning. Denise is also the New Jersey recipient of the NAESP Valic National Distinguished Principal Award.
Lenore Kingsmore, Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level, 2016
As the principal at Henry Hudson Regional School, Lenore Kingsmore has worked collaboratively with students, staff, and parents to improve the climate and culture, as well as advanced placement scores, in her school. She also created a school-within-a-school for her middle school students, which has resulted in improved standardized test scores, attendance, and discipline. Last year, she introduced, into the self-contained middle school, a therapy dog who assists students who are having a difficult time emotionally or just need stress reduction.. This Golden Doodle named “Hudson” has allowed students with disabilities to improve their communication skills and behavior. This has proven to be a very positive initiative for the entire school community. Kingsmore was also instrumental in helping her community in the days and weeks following Super Storm Sandy, as Henry Hudson School was turning into a shelter housing and feeding hundreds of people who had lost their homes. Lenore is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Principal of the Year Award.
Allison Staffin, Visionary Leader of the Year, Assistant Principal, 2016
Allison Staffin serves as the assistant principal of Cherry Hill High School West. She is also the Title I coordinator, promoting the achievements of students deemed at-promise for improved performance on high stakes tests in math and English and encouraging parental and community involvement. She has created cross-content professional learning communities and mandatory peer observation protocols for collaboration, allowing staff to explore the commonalities between practices and the ability to instruct students using a common vocabulary. She has spent her entire career in Cherry Hill, first as a student teacher, then as a teacher, and now as assistant principal. She successfully implemented a plan to close the Achievement Gap and to get Cherry Hill West off of the “School-in-Need-of-Improvement” list. Allison is also the New Jersey recipient of the NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year Award.
Timothy Craig, Visionary Leader of the Year, Supervisor/Director, 2016
Tim Craig, Director of Fine and Performing Arts and Business Education for the Bayonne Public Schools, creates, builds, and develops meaningful arts educational opportunities for his students. He finds creative and cost-effective ways to ensure that the students of Bayonne have equitable access to learning opportunities in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts, regardless of economic status. He developed the Academy for Fine and Performing Arts and Academics to provide career track options for students in STEM, the Humanities, and the Fine and Performing Arts. His students develop close bonds in the academy as they work together to develop their crafts and prepare for their futures.