News & Press: Communications/Networking

Trinidad School District 1 Principal Named Colorado's Middle School Principal of the Year

Monday, April 29, 2019  
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Melissa Gibson
CASE Director of Communications and Strategic Partners

Trinidad School District 1 Principal Named Colorado's Middle School Principal of the Year for 2019

Earlier this month, the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) and the Colorado Association of Secondary School Principals (CASSP) named Trinidad Middle School Principal Deana Pachelli the 2019 Colorado Middle School Principal of the Year.

Pachelli has made strides to make her school a safe place for both her students and staff. From implementing anti-bullying measures, to empowering everyone in the building, from sixth graders to the school nurse, to take on leadership roles, Pachelli has had an important and positive impact on Trinidad Middle School.

“I want everybody to understand that leadership doesn’t necessarily only come with those who have authority,” she said. “It can be a ubiquitous thing.”

“Being the leader and decision-maker at a rural school with over 70% of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch is an incredible challenge,” said CASE Executive Director Lisa Escárcega. “But that doesn’t stop Deana; she’s introducing initiatives and creating a culture of creativity and safety, despite her limited resources. Her tenacity should serve as an inspiration to all Colorado education leaders.”

Pachelli, who has been the principal at Trinidad Middle School for 14 years, said she was both excited and humbly honored to have won the award.

“Receiving this award is a reflection of the excellence and hard work both my students and staff put in every day,” she said. “While I’m honored to have received this recognition, I know I couldn’t achieve these things without their commitment to working just as hard and staying just as dedicated.”

Pachelli has fostered a culture of well-being and safety at Trinidad Middle through several school-wide projects, including a Kindness Initiative, implemented with the help of an anti-bullying grant.

“The grant has allowed us to gather useful data from a survey of our students on the areas of need, in regards to bullying and students feeling safe at school,” she wrote in her application for the award. “We determined that our school needed to address bullying during unstructured times in the school day. We educated our students on the A’s, B’s, C’s and D’s of bullying, as well as our parents and staff.”

The Kindness Initiative led to other in-school processes, such as introducing the “Expect Respect Curriculum,” encouraging students to take on the role of upstanders in the building, and to stop bullying when they witness it. Pachelli also created a community space called the “Rap Room” where students and the school counselor use peer mediation and conflict resolution strategies to assist one another with peer conflict.

“Not only are the students being trained on peer conflict resolution strategies, but the entire staff is, as well,” she said.

In addition to her anti-bullying efforts, Pachelli has empowered everyone in the building to learn about leadership and seek out opportunities to practice being a leader in real time. She introduced the Leader in Me program, a way of conducting business as usual beginning with the book The Leader In Me by Stephen R. Covey. Everybody, from custodial staff, food service staff and the school resource officer, to students and teachers, were trained in the Leader In Me practice.

“Once fully implemented after two years, our school moved on the school performance framework from priority improvement to performance. Leader In Me was not the only factor, but it was definitely a contributing one,” Pachelli said. “Students and staff have a feeling of empowerment, belonging, pride, renewed energy and overall success.”

“The school now belongs to the stakeholders, with the faces of both staff and students front and center,” she added.

Pachelli will be recognized at the 2019 CASE Awards Reception later this month, as well as at the 2019 National Association of Secondary School Principals’ (NASSP) 2019 National Conference this summer in Boston, MA.



The Colorado Association of School Executives ( is the preeminent professional association for public school administrators in Colorado. The organization’s mission is to empower Colorado education leaders through advocacy, professional learning and networking to deliver on the promise of public education.