WEST PARIS — SAD 17 elementary school Principal Melanie Ellsworth has won the National Distinguished Principals Award for Maine, it was announced Monday.

“Our school is getting this award because of all of you,” Melanie Ellsworth, principal of the Agnes Gray and Hebron Station elementary schools, told more than 100 students and staff in a surprise assembly Monday morning in West Paris.

The program, which was established in 1984 by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, recognizes and celebrates elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities, according to the NAESP website. One principal in each state is honored each year.

Ellsworth was presented the award at the Hebron Station School by Maine Principals Association Executive Director Richard Durost in front of approximately 150 students and staff earlier in the morning. Superintendent Rick Colpitts, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett and SAD 17 Board of Directors Chairman Ron Kugell attended the ceremony.

Later, Agnes Gray students and staff in West Paris were assembled to hear the announcement by Colpitts, who along with Hartnett have both received the prestigious award in the past. Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia has also been designated a National Distinguished Principal in the past.

Colpitts told the students, who stood and applauded their principal, that Ellsworth was recognized out of hundreds of principals across the state.

“We’re all very excited and honored that she works in SAD 17 with us,” he said.

Considered a leader in early literacy and the reading recovery movement in the 1990s, Ellsworth was hired in 1999 as a half-time teacher and principal serving the West Paris elementary school. In 2007, she was appointed full-time principal of the Agnes Gray School, and in the 2010-11 school year became the principal of the West Paris and Hebron schools.

She has also served as an elementary teacher in SAD 44 in Woodstock and Bethel elementary schools and as an instructor of graduate level literacy classes at the University of Maine.

Colpitts said the extensive nomination process for the award included interviews with the applicant, staff, community members and others, plus a visit to the school.

As a honoree, Ellsworth will attend the 2014 NDP event in October in Washington, D.C. Next week, she will attend the Maine Principals’ Association Spring Conference where she will be formally presented the award at a banquet.

Jeanne Crocker, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said in her letter of congratulations to Ellsworth, “The caliber of your professionalism, leadership and excellence as a school administrator showed through very clearly in your application and during the site visit.”

Ellsworth was also honored at the SAD 17 Board of Directors meeting Monday night.

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