RI Elementary School Principal of the Year

Each year RIASP selects a Rhode Island Elementary School Principal of the Year. This principal is acknowledged by his/her peers for the exemplary contributions he/she has made to the profession.  The program honors school principals who place student learning at the center, set high expectations for student development, oversee standards based teaching and learning, utilize data in making decisions, and engage the community in the shared responsibility for student achievement.

The RIASP Elementary Principal of the Year recognition program is run in conjunction with the National Distinguished Principal Program (NDP) which is sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) in corporate sponsorship with VALIC.

Anyone may nominate an eligible principal – a superintendent, a principal, a teacher, a parent, a student.

Elementary Principal of the Year

2009 - Nancy Nettik - West Kingston Elementary School

2010 - Christopher Kennedy - Nayatt Elementary School

2011 - Debra Zepp - Matunuck Elementary School

2012 - Susan Chin - Veazie Street School

2013 - Nidia Karbonik - Ashton Elementary School

2014 - Edward Ferrario - Stony Lane Elementary School

2015 - Louise Seitsinger - Tiogue Elementary School 

2016 - Denise Missry - Asa Messer Elementary School 

2017- Donna Coderre - Leo Savoie Elementary School 

2018 - Jennifer Poore - Charlestown Elementary School 

2019 - Patricia Cousineau - Warwick Neck Elementary School 

2020 - Courtney Monterecy - Mary Fogarty Elementary School

2021 - Suzette Wordell - Pocasset Elementary School

2022 - James Callahan - Sowams Elementary School

2022 Elementary Principal of the Year 

James Callahan

Sowams Elementary School Barrington

About APOY Jim Callahan:  At the beginning of each school day at Sowams over the last twenty years, parents dropping their children off are treated to a friendly, assuring sight with Jim Callahan greeting each student and family.  Twenty years!  School nurse-teacher Denise Flores, in nominating him said “Mr. Callahan makes families feel welcome. Even in the pandemic, come rain or shine, sleet, snow or frigid temperatures, he stands outside to greet each and every student by name as they arrive at school, setting the culture for the day with a welcoming presence. His positive attitude sets the tone for Sowams School.“

His leadership is not only appreciated by teachers, parents, and students but by the entire administrative team in Barrington who regularly look to Jim for his expertise in handling the next state mandate to come down the pike, or the district’s latest initiative.

His teachers appreciate his leadership in creating and maintaining common planning time for each grade level with a focus on scoring common assessments in ELA and math, planning the next ELA or math unit, incorporating small group instruction and interventions in classrooms, looking at data, and ensuring our foundational skills program is being implemented with fidelity. The CPT time is considered sacred.

He is credited with bringing the RULER tool to Sowams to keep in touch with his students’ emotional well-being. RULER, out of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, stands for  Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotions. Throughout the day, teachers use the tools of RULER to assist students in accepting how they are feeling and how to use those feelings to continue to learn to the best of their ability.  

Jim spent nine years as a classroom teacher at multiple grade levels in Barrington before accepting his first principal position in East Providence. After two years, however, Barrington brought him back as principal at Sowams in 2002 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Starting out with a degree from Bryant College in Business Administration (wait, what?) the LaSalle Academy alum earned his M.Ed. in elementary education from Rhode Island College before studying for his administrative credentials at Providence College.

UPDATED: August 2022

© 2015 Rhode Island Association of School Principals

Rhode Island Association of School Principals is a 501(c) 6 Non-Profit Organization



401-272-9811 ext. 2 

Robert E. Littlefield, Executive Director 

Cheryl Iiams, Adm. Asst. 

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