Hillcrest Middle School has been named the Middle School of the Year for 2018-19 by the Connecticut Association of Schools. The award, based on interviews, visits and a review of students\u2019 academic performance, was announced last week. \u201cWe\u2019ve been getting calls all week from people congratulating us,\u201d said Superintendent Gary Cialfi. \u201cIt\u2019s a great honor, and even the teachers and staff at the other schools in town have been very excited for Hillcrest.\u201d The committee that chose Hillcrest noted the school\u2019s \u201cwarm and inviting welcome and sense of safety\u201d as evidence of a \u201cwell-established positive culture and climate\u201d where all students and staff were committed to the ideals of safety, ownership, attitude, respect, and responsibility. \u201cHillcrest Middle School is clearly an exemplary school in many ways,\u201d the committee wrote in its congratulatory letter. \u201cThe Awards Committee was duly impressed with the outstanding work going on at Hillcrest Middle School.\u201d The committee also recounted its site visit, and continued to heap plaudits on the school community. \u201cWe were continually impressed with each group we met as they complimented the leadership and shared-vision of Hillcrest Middle School,\u201d the committee wrote. \u201cStudents spoke proudly of their teachers\u2019 availability and flexibility for extra help or conversation in the classroom and beyond their school work hours.\u201d The praise extended to the parents, too. \u201cThe show of support by the community and the parental knowledge about school programs was notable,\u201d the committee wrote. \u201cThe strong parent group has become partners with your staff in the education of their children, and they are truly invested in helping to support Hillcrest Middle School.\u201d Finally, the committee praised the staff at the school, making specific mention of teachers\u2019 autonomy to make decisions, a feeling of support from the administration, and a sense that anything is possible. \u201cYou are absolutely a model of what a progressive middle school should be!\u201d the committee concluded.