New England Secondary School Consortium


The New England Secondary School Consortium Recognizes Champions at Annual Conference

Hartford, CT — The New England Secondary School Consortium’s state and regional Champion Awards honor the unique contributions of New England leaders working to raise graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and send more students on to college and postsecondary-certification programs. The six 2017 award recipients were recognized for their extraordinary commitment to ensuring that public-school students across New England have a chance to succeed in school, live a fulfilled and meaningful life, and make a positive contribution to the world.

The New England Secondary School Consortium’s 2017 state and regional Champion Award winners:

  • New England Regional Champion: Virginia Barry, former Commissioner of Education, New Hampshire Department of Education
  • Connecticut State Champion: Joe Aresimowicz, State Representative and Speaker of the House, Connecticut General Assembly
  • Maine State Champion: Mary Nadeau, Principal, Nokomis Regional High School
  • New Hampshire State Champion: Brian Blake, Superintendent, Sanborn Regional School District
  • Rhode Island State Champion: Arthur Lisi, Principal, Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School
  • Vermont State Champion: Ken Cadow, Director of Career and Workforce Pathways, Randolph Union High School

“This year’s Champions are invaluable leaders in the regional effort to ensure equity and opportunity for all New England students,” said David Ruff, executive director of the Great Schools Partnership and the New England Secondary School Consortium. “Through their exemplary leadership and steadfast commitment to improving New England’s public schools, each of these Champions embodies the core mission of the Consortium—to close achievement gaps, to provide learning that is student-centered, and to prepare all students for college, career, and citizenship.”

The awards were given out on Monday, March 27, at the annual School Redesign in Action conference, which is hosted by the New England Secondary School Consortium in collaboration with the departments and agencies of education in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Now in its eighth year, the conference attracted 1,200 educators, students, policy makers, and community members representing eleven states. Conference participants had the opportunity to choose from fifty unique presentations led by teachers, students, and community leaders. Presenters have made significant progress increasing student achievement and engagement, graduation rates, college-enrollment numbers, or other indicators of educational success.

About the Award Winners

Regional Champion

Virginia M. Barry Ph.D. was sworn in as Commissioner of Education on June 1, 2009, by Governor John Lynch and re-appointed on March 20, 2013. The New Hampshire Executive Council unanimously confirmed Governor Margaret Wood Hassan’s nomination to the position. The commissioner is responsible for the organizational goals of the department and represents the public interest in the administration of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative and instructional services to all public schools in New Hampshire. The commissioner has direct responsibility for school administrative units for promoting excellence in education and the provision of resources through state and federal programs for all students. Dr. Barry has been recognized nationally for supporting a more holistic assessment of student achievement in support of students being college and work ready.

Dr. Barry has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, leader, tenured university professor, and provost and vice president for academic affairs. Her teaching interests are embedded in the principles of human development and educational leadership. Dr. Barry is deeply committed to collaborative leadership and works closely with the school and business communities to create open communication among stakeholders and create a culture of innovation and excellence. Commissioner Barry is committed to keeping the best interests of the children of New Hampshire at the forefront.

She received her B.S., from Florida State University and M.S., from Queens College City University of New York and State University of New York at Stony Brook., Ph.D. Florida State University with post-doctoral studies at New York University, Harvard and William and Mary.

Connecticut State Champion

State Representative Joe Aresimowicz was first elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2004 to represent the 30th House District, which includes Berlin and Southington, and is currently serving his seventh term. On January 4, 2017, his colleagues elected him Speaker of the House. He previously served as House Majority Leader for the 2013-2016 legislative sessions.

Honorably discharged from the United States Army Reserve where he served as a combat medic for almost a decade, Joe finds veterans’ issues very important. During his tenure in the legislature he has served as a long-time member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He has also served on the Public Safety and Security Committee, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, the Commerce Committee, and was vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. 

Maine State Champion

Mary Nadeau is the principal of Nokomis Regional High School, where she has worked as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. During that time, she has worked as a business education teacher, an academic support teacher, the director of guidance, and assistant principal. Ms. Nadeau serves on committees for the Maine Principals’ Association and is a member of the Kennebunk Consortium for School Administrators, Husson University’s School of Education Advisory Board, and Unity College’s Teacher Advisory Board.

In 2007, Mary was named assistant principal of the year by the Maine Principals’ Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Husson University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Maine.

New Hampshire State Champion

Dr. Brian J. Blake is the superintendent of schools for the Sanborn Regional School District. He is in his fifteenth year as a superintendent. He is the past president of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association and serves on several boards. Dr. Blake has been recognized by his colleagues as the New Hampshire superintendent of the year for 2016. He is a strong advocate for professional learning communities and competency-based learning and assessment. Dr. Blake’s commitment to education has been instrumental in the creation of a learning environment that students, parents, and staff find welcoming and supportive. He has co-presented workshops at both the state and national level and has been instrumental in the development of the PACE initiative in New Hampshire.

Rhode Island State Champion

Dr. Arthur Lisi is the principal of Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry, Rhode Island. Prior to his four-year tenure as principal, Arthur served as an elementary teacher, a middle-level school counselor, assistant principal at the high school, and district director of guidance in his 28 years with Coventry Public Schools.

Arthur’s 2003 dissertation addressed personalizing schools by strengthening adult-student relationships. He helped develop the high school’s state-mandated proficiency-based graduation requirements. He has presented at numerous national and regional conferences on the impact of school counseling programs, embedded response to intervention programs, and using growth mindset to develop personalized learning and flexible pathways in the middle school. His school was one of two middle schools in New England to receive an initial NextGen Personalized Learning Grant, and Arthur recently co-wrote and received a grant to fully fund a video-production classroom as a cross-curricular pathway to help students develop and strengthen writing skills by using scripting and video production.

Dr. Lisi is on the executive board of the Rhode Island Middle-Level Educators and Rhode Island School Counselor Association, and teaches a data and measurement class in the graduate program at Providence College.

 Vermont State Champion

Ken Cadow came to education via a circuitous route. At the age of six, he opened a candy store, over time adding berries (picked by himself, in season), freshly dug clams, and artwork. He has also been a newspaper boy, exhibiting artist, store clerk, taxi driver, waiter, naval officer, town treasurer, business owner, writer, and editor. At one point during his ten-year stint as a business owner, he employed over 90% of the year’s local high school graduates. After selling the business, it was working with kids that he missed the most. So he found his way into education.

In the traditional classroom, what Ken missed the most was tangible and sustained opportunities for students to witness firsthand how and where their newfound knowledge applied to the working world. In 2012, as part of work he was doing for a regional economic development strategy committee, Ken reviewed 60 rural economic strategic plans from across the country. The findings, though informal, were alarming. While many strategic plans listed high schools as detractors (and most failed to mention them at all) only one (the 60th reviewed) listed its traditional area public school as a regional asset.

Now, as Director of Career Pathways and Workforce Development at Randolph Union High School, Ken’s work has been to create the deployed classroom: a model that allows schools and regional businesses to partner, creating equal opportunities for teacher-accompanied classes to meet core graduation standards through rigorous programs that are tied to thorough assessments.

About the Consortium

The New England Secondary School Consortium is a regional partnership working to advance forward-thinking innovations in secondary education that will empower the next generation of citizens, workers, and leaders. The Consortium’s goal is to ensure that every public high school student receives an education that prepares them for success in the colleges, careers, and communities of the 21st century. The Consortium is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest philanthropy in New England focused exclusively on education, and coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership, a nonprofit educational-support organization in Portland, Maine.


Media Contact: Blythe Armitage,, (207) 773-0505

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