At this year’s annual Awards Dinner, held at Cascade, a banquet hall in Hamden, on April 25, the Connecticut PTSA not only named Dawn Hochsprung, one of the six adult victims on 12/14, its Elementary Principal of the Year, but also renamed the award after her.
Connecticut PTSA President Jim Accomando said the annual Awards Dinner was well attended, and most of the night was directed at the Sandy Hook representatives in attendance. Ms Hochsprung’s family members were also invited to the event.
A number of special moments occurred during the evening, according to Mr Accomando. One came during the awards dinner’s reception. Video of a January “Concert for Newtown” held in Fairfield to raise money for the Connecticut PTSA Sandy Hook Fund was shared.
Sandy Hook and Newtown residents also earned awards during the dinner, along with others who received awards during the night. Newtown High School senior Heather Leone was announced as the recipient of a Connecticut PTSA $500 scholarship, and NHS junior Elizabeth LoCascio was announced as the recipient of a $2,000 Nutmeg Statewide PTA Scholarship.
One surprise came when Sandy Hook School PTA President Tracey Jaeger, Sandy Hook School PTA First Vice President Jennifer Taylor, Sandy Hook School PTA Treasurer Laura Taylor, and Sandy Hook School PTA member Mara Street were named as recipients of the Connecticut PTSA’s highest honor, the Honorary Life Achievement Award.
Mr Accomando said the award represents volunteerism. He said this year’s Awards Dinner was longer than normal, because, “We wanted to make sure these folks receive the awards.”
The four women, Mr Accomando said, started working with the state PTSA immediately following the events of 12/14.
“Their volunteerism and how they stepped up to honor their school… it was truly an honor to work with them,” said Mr Accomando.
Mr Accomando said without the four Sandy Hook PTA members, the state PTSA’s “Snowflakes for Sandy Hook” program, which collected handmade snowflakes from around the world for Sandy Hook following 12/14, could not have been completed. Laura Taylor’s efforts in arranging help from Pitney Bowes, which provided space and help sorting the snowflakes, “single handedly saved the snowflakes program.”
Ms Jaeger said Ms Street took on a full-time job in “our snowflake land,” orchestrating everything, from volunteers to arranging to have each student at Sandy Hook receive a box of snowflakes.
“She’s done just an amazing job,” said Ms Jaeger.
A video of photos from the snowflake program was also shared during the night, according to Mr Accomando.
When the Connecticut PTSA Elementary School Principal of the Year Award was bestowed on Ms Hochsprung, both Ms Jaeger and Ms Hochsprung’s husband spoke.
It was also announced that going forward the award will be named the Dawn Hochsprung Elementary School Principal of the Year Award.
“Criteria For The Principal Of The Year”
“As I looked at the criteria for the Principal of the Year award, so many wonderful memories of Dawn flooded my mind,” Ms Jaeger wrote in a prepared speech shared after the announcement of Ms Hochsprung’s Principal of the Year Award. “I wondered how I was ever going to be able to write this speech and do Dawn the justice she deserves. While she was only at Sandy Hook for two and-a-half years, she forever changed our school.”
Ms Jaeger shared memories of Ms Hochsprung offering encouragement, brain storming and listening to parents, showing love for her students, diligently working with the school’s PTA, attending school dances, and a number of school initiatives Ms Hochsprung started.
“She was a natural. She had a knack for understanding the needs of every child and had a way about her that made them feel loved and appreciated,” Ms Jaeger wrote.
Later Ms Jaeger wrote, “We will be forever grateful for the time we had with her and will spend every day trying to do our best by her. A little piece of Dawn will always be with us and we are going to work very hard as a PTA and community to make sure her visions for the future of our school will come to fruition.”
Throughout the night, Mr Accomando said people reached out to the Sandy Hook representatives to thank them for their bravery.
A number of dignitaries also made it to the event, including Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, National PTA President Betsy Landers, National Service Representative with the National PTA Deb Fritz, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stephen Pryor, and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent Ms Hochsprung’s family a video introduction for the Awards Dinner.
Overall, Mr Accomando said the night was, “a very, very gracious event.”
There were a number of standing ovations during the night also, as awards were given out, according to Mr Accomando.
“It was an amazing night,” said Mr Accomando.