Meriden Public Schools

Meriden Native New Principal at Washington Middle School

School officials have hired a city native as principal of Washington Middle School. They also announced a new assistant principal at Washington and another at Platt High School.

Jessica Showerda, 46, former Washington Middle School vice principal and Platt High School graduate, was named principal of Washington last month. She replaces Ray Southland, who died suddenly in July 2019.

“WMS and this school community have made me feel welcomed  — it truly is my second family and I am honored to lead as the next principal,” Showerda said. “At WMS, we have high expectations for kids — academically, socially and behaviorally.” 

As vice principal, Showerda helped the students mourn Southland’s loss and worked to maintain the popular principal’s philosophy. 

“We make sure our expectations are embedded into our school culture where they are reflected in our language, attitude, celebrations...We call this ‘The Washington Way’ in honor of our past principal, Ray Southland,” she said. 

Showerda attended Hanover Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School. She taught business education for 16 years at Maloney High School, was named Maloney’s Teacher of the Year in 2016,  and spent three years as assistant principal at Washington.

She has three children. One recently graduated from Maloney and the other two are in the school system, including a sixth grader at Washington. 

“Leading a school is a lot like parenting,” Showerda said. ”It can be complex and multi-faceted but it is also extremely gratifying and rewarding. I approach leading a school through the lens of a parent who always wants the best education and opportunities for their child.”

Superintendent of Schools Mark Benigni was impressed with Showerda’s leadership as assistant principal, her roots in the community and pride in Meriden Public Schools. 

“Jessica was a dynamic teacher at Maloney and has done a fantastic job as Washington’s assistant principal,” Benigni said in an email. “I am confident that Washington Middle School is in great hands with Jessica as their leader.”

Showerda earned her undergraduate degree in business administration from Albertus Magnus College, her master’s degree in education and master’s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven and her sixth year certificate in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University.  

“She brings a lifelong love of Meriden and knowledge of the community to her position,” said Board of Education President Robert Kosienski Jr. “She knows the staff, the building and kids. Personally, I'm really excited that she is at the helm of Washington Middle School.”

New assistants at Platt, WMS

Meriden Public Schools also hired two assistant principals from outside the system. Andrea Fonseca is an 18 year veteran, most recently as assistant principal at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck. Prior to that she was a reading consultant for Stratford schools and a teacher in Bridgeport. She is the new assistant principal at Platt. 

“Andrea has played a role in several district and school-wide initiatives, including equity leadership, mastery-based learning, and the implementation of reading and writing workshop,” said Louis Bronk, assistant superintendent for personnel and talent development. “She has a strong passion for curriculum and instruction that is culturally relevant and student-centered.” 

Fonseca earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education and sociology and master’s degree in reading from Southern Connecticut State University. She received a sixth year certificate in educational leadership from Sacred Heart University.  

David Kowalchuk was recently hired as the new assistant principal at Washington. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Connecticut, master’s degree in education from the University of New Haven, and sixth year certificate in advanced educational leadership from the University of New England. 

Kowalchuk worked the past 14 years at Southington High School, where he led the mathematics department. He has been a member of various district and school-based committees, including the professional development and evaluation committee, social and emotional learning team, and the school-based grading committee, Bronk said.

“We had nearly 200 applicants for the assistant principal positions at Washington and Platt and interviewed 40 candidates in our initial round of interviews,” Bronk said in an email. “It was an extremely competitive process, our hiring teams conducted three rounds of interviews and we’re pleased to have two candidates in David and Andrea who established themselves as the top candidates for the jobs.”

By Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal staff