Evanston Academy Principal Stacey Hill-Simmons probably started her morning on Tuesday, January 14, thinking it would be like any other day.
She couldn’t have been more wrong.
During a surprise ceremony that morning, the Cincinnatus Association awarded Principal Hill-Simmons with the prestigious James N. Jacobs Memorial Award of Excellence, which recognizes an outstanding administrative employee in the Cincinnati Public Schools system every year.
Principal Hill-Simmons has been credited for establishing a culture around Evanston that embraces inclusiveness and empowers students to achieve at their highest level. Perhaps that is why when it came time to announce the award, she was the only one surprised.
The last person to arrive at Evanston’s gymnasium, which was already filled with faculty and students, Principal Hill-Simmons cautiously approached the stage when called. Then, the curtain behind her was pulled back, revealing a host of family and friends all eager to see her receive recognition for her transformative work. Among the individuals onstage were Larry Kissel and Kent Friel from the Cincinnatus Association, who formally announced her commendation to thunderous applause.
Following the announcement, supporters took turns at the mic to congratulate Principal Hill-Simmons. One supporter was Dr. Jonathan Brown, who was named Administrator of the Year by the Ohio Alliance for Black School Educators last year. “I have been a principal in Cincinnati Public Schools for about five years, and if you know me, you know I have a strong sense of confidence about myself,” Brown shared. “I thought I was a super principal. I thought I knew just about everything — that is, until I met Stacey Hill-Simmons.”
“We love your vision, we love that the bar is set so high, and you raise it higher and higher every year,” said one faculty member. “This award is just the icing on the cake.”
Principal Hill-Simmons certainly has raised bar. Evanston recently was recognized by the Ohio Department of Education as one of two schools in the state to be named a 2019 Distinguished School, a national designation which is one of the highest honors given for providing high-quality education to disadvantaged students. Evanston also earned an A on its 2019 report card from the Ohio Department of Education.
In light of the success, Principal Hill-Simmons says it’s the people around her who make all the difference. “The kids who sit here before us have the opportunity to be affected by the most amazing group of staff members,” Principal Hill-Simmons shared, fighting back tears. “I am in a position where my job works effortlessly because I am surrounded by some of the greatest people, people who aren’t afraid to put in the work. It is the people in this room who make the magic happen.”
Curriculum Manager Dr. Jennifer Williams praised Principal Hill-Simmons’ relentless, hard work above all else. She said: “The recognition and accolades may be coming in, but the excellence and expectations are still as high as ever. [Professional basketball] Coach Gregg Popovich said if you just keep pounding the rock, it will take the shape of your dreams. That’s what Stacey Hill-Simmons has done — she has consistently been pounding the rock, and this is what is taking shape.”
Principal Hill-Simmons isn’t done pounding the rock. Wiping away tears, she wrapped up her acceptance speech with one line:
“Evanston Academy students and staff, it’s time to get to work.”
To learn more about all the great things going on at Evanston Academy, check out: https://evanstonacademy.cps-k12.org/