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’ academic performance, was announced last week.

“We’ve been getting calls all week from people congratulating us,” said Superintendent Gary Cialfi. “It’s a great honor, and even the teachers and staff at the other schools in town have been very excited for Hillcrest.”

The committee that chose Hillcrest noted the school’s “warm and inviting welcome and sense of safety” as evidence of a “well-established positive culture and climate” where all students and staff were committed to the ideals of safety, ownership, attitude, respect, and responsibility.

“Hillcrest Middle School is clearly an exemplary school in many ways,” the committee wrote in its congratulatory letter. “The Awards Committee was duly impressed with the outstanding work going on at Hillcrest Middle School.”

The committee also recounted its site visit, and continued to heap plaudits on the school community.

“We were continually impressed with each group we met as they complimented the leadership and shared-vision of Hillcrest Middle School,” the committee wrote. “Students spoke proudly of their teachers’ availability and flexibility for extra help or conversation in the classroom and beyond their school work hours.”

The praise extended to the parents, too.

“The show of support by the community and the parental knowledge about school programs was notable,” the committee wrote. “The 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.”

Finally, the committee praised the staff at the school, making specific mention of teachers’ autonomy to make decisions, a feeling of support from the administration, and a sense that anything is possible.

“You are absolutely a model of what a progressive middle school should be!” the committee concluded.