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Principal of Year is proud of Ridgefield roots

Thomas McMorran in front of a display at Joel Barlow High School in Redding where he is principal.

Thomas McMorran, Joel Barlow principal for the last five years, was recently awarded the Connecticut Principal of the Year Award at the Association for Secondary Principals’ annual banquet.

Even though Mr. McMorran has “crossed the border,” he is still considered by many a young man from Ridgefield. He attended the Ridgefield Schools, married his high school sweetheart, Colleen Seibert, and worked at Ridgefield High School as an English teacher, department head, dean, and assistant principal.

His parents also still live in town.

“Would you believe that John Frey, state representative, Terry Hughes, director of Boy’s Club, and Tom Comstock, Ridgefield police captain, were all in Mr. Tulipani’s same fourth grade class in Veterans Park Elementary School with me?” said Mr. McMorran. “How much more Ridgefield can you get than that?”

“Ridgefield had a great impact on my life,” he said. “In addition to Mr. Tulipani I have been inspired by so many. Ms. Moffa, my science teacher, taught me not to be afraid to stand up for my beliefs. Mr. James Menousk, my chemistry teacher, taught me that failure is a part of learning.”

“From administrators, Dr. Lynn Merrill and Dr. Dianna Lindsay, I also received great wisdom. Dr. Merrill told me that to get the job you need to talk, but after that it is all about listening. Dr. Lindsay advised me to lead with my heart and discover my own passion and the passions of others so that the proper fit can be made.”

Mr. McMorran’s passion is to bring students and faculty together in an intimate environment where everyone feels an important part of the learning process.

“I like to think of myself as a bonsai artist,” he said. “The product I am working with was already there, but I must keep pruning and shaping it to make it even better.”

For his future goals Mr. Morran wants “to see more emphasis on wellness in our program. I want to incorporate more learning in club and outside activities. I want to involve the community to an even greater degree and have us work as partners.”

Elaine Clesielski, Mr. McMorran’s executive assistant — or “partner” as he calls her — sums up Mr. McMorran, “Tom is one of the kindest, most intelligent people I have every met. He treats everyone as an equal and is a percolator of new ideas.”

Mr. McMorran was nominated for the principal’s award by former Ridgefield teacher and now assistant Joel Barlow principal, Gina Pin.

“Since Tom is so humble and unassuming I based my nomination letter on teamwork and his ability to bring everyone together in a conscious effort to find the best in each student and help them to lead a healthier, happier, more productive life,” Ms. Pin said.

“The staff lovingly refers to Mr. McMorran as Mr. Metaphor as he continually uses figures of speech in his explanations at meetings. Our faculty meetings are so unique. They focus entirely on what is best for the students, but are also part book discussion, part philosophy, and part group therapy. Laughter also plays an important part.”

Mr. McMorran believes that modern society tends to look at education from the wrong prospective.

“Today it is all about assessment, looking at the scores and building from there,” he said. “I believe that if you start with building relationships, respect and a supportive climate, student will naturally want to learn, will learn, and the scores will be where they need to be in regard to achievement.”

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