Caddo Parish’s 2021-2022 Principals of the Year have each left an indelible mark on the schools they serve.
On Wednesday, Dr. T. Lamar Goree, Superintendent of Caddo Schools, surprised Kasie Mainiero and Dr. Matthew Mitchell as this year’s district winners. Mainiero, who serves as principal of University Elementary School, has been named Elementary Principal of the Year while Dr. Mitchell, who serves as principal of Huntington High School has been named Secondary Principal of the Year.
“Both Mrs. Mainiero and Dr. Mitchell have used their platform as school leaders to change the dynamic at their schools,” Dr. Goree said. “In their time, each of these great educators has worked to develop a revitalized and invigorated culture that has led to increased opportunities for students and a focus on academic excellence.
The winners will now advance to compete at the state level in the 2023 Louisiana Principal of the Year competition conducted annually by the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Association of Principals. Winners will be announced in July 2022 at the annual Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration.
Kasie Mainiero, Elementary School Principal of the Year
For the past 8 years, Kasie Mainiero has been on a mission to ensure every child at University Elementary has the tools needed for success. An advocate for mental and physical wellness programs and initiatives, she has partnered with community organizations and trained her staff to create an environment where students feel loved and safe.
The first We Care School as designated by Community Renewal International, University works diligently to foster a culture of caring which is a central focus of all school activities.
“We are a school that is so proud of our diversity and embraces that as fundamentally who we are and what sets us apart,” Mainiero said. “In that diversity, we also know that it is powerful to be able to teach students from an early age to appreciate and embrace each other’s differences as what makes them unique. At the end of the day, they are all children with hopes, dreams, and excitement for the future.”
Under Mainiero’s leadership, University’s enrollment soared, causing revisions to attendance zones to adequately handle the growth. She also increased prekindergarten classes and provided opportunities for students to experience a variety of clubs and activities to find their niche.
“We want every child to have a place where they belong and become confident in who they are,” she said.
Mainiero’s energy is infectious and has caught the attention of community partners and programs who have become critical to the increased programs and opportunities at the campus.
“We couldn’t be where we are without the help of our community,” Mainiero said. “They have seen the vision for what we are creating at University and have jumped in with both feet to make sure our students and teachers have what they need.”
Mainiero began her career with Caddo in 2001 as a kindergarten teacher at Summerfield Elementary School. Her first experience at University came in 2005 when she became a kindergarten teacher at the campus for three years before pursuing a career in school administration which took her to Forest Hill Elementary. It wasn’t until 2012, she would find her way back to University as an instructional coordinator and assistant principal before assuming the principal role in 2014.
Dr. Matthew Mitchell, Secondary School Principal of the Year
Dr. Matthew Mitchell entered Huntington High School in 2018 on a mission. The mission: to make Huntington the premier high school in Caddo Parish.
In the time since, Dr. Mitchell is well on his way as he has broken records in the school’s enrollment, graduation rate, students receiving college credits before graduation, ACT performance and students earning industry-based credentials.
“We’ve worked hard to put the focus on our students being able to have pride in their school,” Dr. Mitchell said. “That comes in improving every part of the Huntington experience from what we are doing in the classroom to opportunities and activities that give our students what they need to go further.”
While that pride has only increased over the years not only with students but with staff members, the community and alumni, Dr. Mitchell is never one to rest on his laurels. He continues to seek out new ways for Huntington students to have as many experiences as possible before they graduate. Last year, the school partnered with CYBER.ORG to launch cybersecurity coursework designed to allow students to graduate high school and flow directly into Grambling State University courses with the foundational and technical skills needed for highly competitive cybersecurity careers.
Prior to being named principal of Huntington, Dr. Mitchell served as principal of Fair Park Middle School and Lakeshore Middle School. Under his tenure, the schools earned Top Gains distinction from the Louisiana Department of Education. In 2017, he also received the Outstanding African American Achievement Award and was selected as Caddo’s Middle School Principal of the Year.
A product of Caddo Schools, Dr. Mitchell began his education career as a math teacher at C.E. Byrd High School in 2008. In working individually with students, he saw an opportunity to serve students as a graduation coach at Woodlawn Leadership Academy in order to identify potential student dropouts and create individualized graduation plans to push students toward the goal of a diploma and postsecondary success.
By 2012, Dr. Mitchell sought to make a greater impact in the district by signing on to become a secondary math professional development specialist. The position allowed him to work with principals, teachers and staff to coordinate training to realize student potential and identify ways of better providing math instruction.
Upon the creation of the Transformation Zone, Dr. Mitchell was selected to increase expectations and push for data-driven results at Zone campuses. His work with campuses in the first year set the groundwork for increased graduation rates along with declines in behavior referrals.
But Dr. Mitchell’s heart remained at the schoolhouse and in 2015, he interviewed for the principal position at Lakeshore Middle School. Creating a college preparatory atmosphere, he set ambitious goals for teachers and staff and sought to push the envelope for what was thought possible for the campus. In the process, he led his students and staff to see an increased school letter grade.