Charles Smilinich, principal at Colonial Village Elementary School in the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District, was selected as the 2015 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
This award is given annually to a member of both organizations who has set the pace, character and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
A longtime educator of a dozen years, Smilinich has served in his current position at Colonial Village Elementary School since 2011, in which time he has been credited with leading the school out of the significant challenges and troubles that were present upon his arrival at the school, which has a nearly 70 percent family poverty rate. This leader has turned the school around, creating an environment of inclusion, calm and hope, with the goal that each student will thrive, be successful and rise to their capabilities.
To that end, Smilinich has worked diligently with the staff to implement team-based teaching and was instrumental in receiving a district-wide counseling grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which enabled the expansion of intervention services for the school.
In order to increase morale and pride at Colonial Village, he changed the colors of the school hallways from gray to vibrant colors, encouraged teachers to post student work there and every morning, following his lively daily announcements, the kids chant the school motto "the greatest school in the universe," which everyone continually strives to live up to.
Superintendent Lynn Marie Fusco said, "Through his persistence, passion, and personal commitment to the students and community, he has transformed the school into a well-managed, community oriented hub of student and family learning. He has created an environment where school pride abounds, and students and teachers feel safe, secure and valued."
As noted by Cynthia Broughton, a teacher at Colonial Village, "How can one man, without an assistant principal to help him, change a disillusioned, spirally downward elementary school to a school of hope and vision? His leadership is just short of a miracle. It takes a person with a focused goal who insists on input from all, someone who believes in everyone who walks through that building. Our school needed a leader who would never give up and never settle for mediocrity. We have that leader and more from Mr. Smilinich."
Smilinich received his Bachelor of Science degree in sociology, masters in elementary education and advanced certification in educational leadership from the University at Buffalo.
Smilinich will be honored for his accomplishments at an awards ceremony May 8 at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany. As New York's Elementary School Principal of the Year, Smilinich will be celebrated as a National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals at a recognition program this fall in Washington, D.C.