BFMS principal wins award, meets senators

BELLOWS FALLS -- Not many citizens or public servants ever meet their federal legislators. But Heidi Lucas-Moccia, who is both, got to see two in one day.

Lucas-Moccia, the principal of Bellows Falls Middle School, was in Washington, D.C., last month with Colchester High School Principal Amy Minor to receive education awards and meet U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy. Lucas-Moccia and Minor were the Vermont recipients of MetLife National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) of the Year Awards, which recognize educators who have made significant positive differences in their schools and communities.

Lucas-Moccia told the Reformer she spent Wednesday, Sept. 18, through part of Saturday, Sept. 21, in the nation's capital for an awards ceremony and a chance to explore the district. She said the gala was held on Friday and there were principals from middle and high schools across the country in attendance, though the winners from a few states did not show up.

"It was kind of like going to the Emmys," she said, adding that the day prior she "toured the (United States) Capitol Building and met with Sanders, got to talk about educational issues and bills before the Legislature.

"He was very surprised by the number of free-and-reduced (lunch) students there are," she recounted.

Sanders released a statement to the Reformer about his opportunity to meet Lucas-Moccia.

"I appreciate very much the enormously important work that principals like Bellows Falls Middle School Principal Heidi Lucas-Moccia are doing," he said. "There are few things more important than providing a strong public education to our kids. I applaud her for the prestigious award that she won."

Lucas-Moccia said they also discussed a bill that could transform America's middle and high schools and later she met Leahy, once he was done speaking on the Senate floor. She said it was incredible to meet Leahy, who is the President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and, therefore, third in line to become president. Leahy released his own statement to the Reformer.

"Ensuring our children have access to a high quality education should be a top priority for us all. I have said for many years that Vermont schools are some of the best. In the face of challenges such as unfunded federal mandates and high-stakes testing, our schools produce incredibly talented students," he said. "The leadership principals play is essential to the success of our students and schools and I applaud Principal Lucas-Moccia for all her hard work."

Lucas-Moccia, in the beginning of her third year as principal of BFMS, said it was a wonderful experience to be in Washington, D.C., and meet both her politicians and her colleagues.

"It is nice knowing we are all dealing with the same issues -- whether you're from a high-performing school, a low-performing school or somewhere in between," she said. "You bring a lot back to your students and your faculty."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.