Author: Leah Ward

Transforming Principal Preparation: Reflecting on UPPI’s Progress

Casey Cobb and Miguel Cardona at UPPI kickoff meeting
Casey Cobb, Neag Endowed Professor of Educational Policy (left) and Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools, take part in a UPPI kickoff meeting earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

As 2017 nears its close, work on the University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) — an initiative led at UConn by the Neag School’s University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) — is getting ready to celebrate its first birthday. This past year, UConn was one of seven universities selected to take part in the Wallace Foundation-funded initiative, which launched officially in January and is focused on improving training programs for aspiring school principals nationwide. At UConn, UCAPP is a school leadership program based at the Neag School that prepares highly qualified school administrators in Connecticut.

Faculty from the Neag School, administrators from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), leaders from several public school districts in Connecticut, and other stakeholders­ from across the nation who have joined UConn’s UPPI workgroups are collaborating to address how university principal preparation programs — working in partnership with high-needs school districts, exemplary preparation programs, and the state — can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals. Over the past 10 months, these workgroups have been developing a “theory of action” for redesigning UCAPP that is focused on three main facets: revising the UCAPP curriculum, developing a leader tracking system, and redesigning the program’s internship component.

“UCAPP is universally recognized as a top program that creates opportunities and helps other programs. We’re looking to continuously improve the program so this momentum can keep up steam for years to come.”

— Richard Gonzales,
UPPI project director and principal investigator

“The main question we’re asking here is: How can a traditional university program work with partners to redesign themselves and align with the best in the field?” says Richard Gonzales, project director and principal investigator for UPPI. Gonzales has coordinated the effort to redesign and improve the program so that the curriculum and the internship experience parallel each other more effectively.

For the Connecticut State Department of Education, this partnership will, according to Sarah Barzee, CSDE chief talent officer, allow for a “transformation through a targeted focus on principal preparation with the goal of ensuring that each and every principal enters this phase of their career with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to be a ‘school-ready’ principal.”

Curriculum Revision
The workgroup taking on revisions to the UCAPP curriculum has come together to review existing UCAPP curriculum materials, syllabi, and more in order to identify the programs’ strengths as well as areas of opportunity — with the ultimate goal in mind of proposing solutions and improvements where appropriate. The workgroup was co-chaired by Sarah Woulfin, assistant professor in the Neag School, and Erin Murray, assistant superintendent for Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools.

“Principals are no longer merely managers inside the office; rather, they are responsible for transforming teaching and learning to yield equitable outcomes for children, families, and communities,” say workgroup members in a self-assessment report they issued this past summer. “Wallace UPPI is grounded in the theory of action that if university-based principal preparation programs improve, then principals will be more effective leaders to promote positive educational outcomes.”

The report proposes a variety of short-term and long-term next steps and recommendations for improving the UCAPP curriculum, some of which could potentially involve piloting, testing, and refining new approaches. It also points out existing gaps in data collection and analysis, “acknowledg[ing] that the leader tracking system will enable the program to obtain additional data.”

Developing a Leader Tracking System
Meanwhile, the Leader Tracking System (LTS) is being developed to evaluate leadership development from the district, university, and state perspectives. The workgroup behind these efforts envisions using such a system to provide data to the Connecticut State Department of Education, partner districts, and the Neag School that would ultimately be used to make decisions about the preparation, hiring, development, and placement of school leaders.

According to Louis Bronk, director of talent at Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools and a co-chair for the UPPI workgroup focused on the LTS, the team is focused on figuring out what they are specifically looking for in school leadership, and what information and data they need to answer this question. A fully realized LTS would ultimately outline what qualities candidates must exhibit and what knowledge they must possess.

Sarah Woulfin at UPPI kickoff meeting
Sarah Woulfin, a Neag School assistant professor and member of the UPPI Steering Committee, takes part in a UPPI kickoff meeting on the UConn Storrs campus earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

“From a university standpoint, the LTS would provide information on a candidate’s success post-graduation for the prep program,” says Bronk. “From a [school] district perspective, it will allow us to evaluate our internal leadership development systems and also allow us to better engage in data-driven decision making in regard to administrator placement and development.”

Internship Redesign
For UPPI’s internship workgroup, the goal has been “to bring coherence to all aspects of the internship across the three models of training within UCAPP,” says Jennifer Michno, co-chair of UPPI’s internship workgroup. The three models of training within UCAPP include a traditional track, designed for Connecticut-certified educators with at least three years of experience in teaching; a track known as Preparing Leaders for Urban Schools (PLUS), for educators working in Hartford or New Haven (Conn.) public schools; and a residency track, which is designed to prepare principal candidates to serve specifically in turnaround schools.

In its efforts to unite the internship component across UCAPP’s models, the workgroup will be looking, Michno says, not only to shift the internships from a focus on supervision to one on coaching, but also to bring measurability to all facets of the UCAPP internship at large and to decide on consistent practices and protocols that will be used across all UCAPP internships.

In addition, the workgroup is partnering on internship redesign efforts with a number of other collaborators from across the nation, including the New York City Leadership Academy, a nonprofit that prepares and supports educators to lead schools, and mentors assigned through the University of Illinois-Chicago.

As the UPPI project progresses, such collaborative efforts across each of the workgroups will continue to evolve. “UCAPP is universally recognized as a top program that creates opportunities and helps other programs,” Gonzales says. “We’re looking to continuously improve the program so this momentum can keep up steam for years to come.”

Learn more about the Neag School’s involvement in the University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) and how it is working to transform principalship at

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Neag School Hosts Annual Educational Leadership Forum in Hartford

Written by: Shawn Kornegay

Neag School of Education alumni, faculty, and administrators, along with educators from across the state, gathered at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture earlier this month for an evening of networking and insights from two dynamic Neag School alumni.

Miguel Cardona ’00 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 Ed.D., ’12 ELP, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools, and Bridget Heston Carnemolla ’13 Ed.D, ’14 ELP, superintendent for Watertown (Conn.) Public Schools, each shared insights into their experiences in the Neag School’s educational leadership program and personal revelations on leadership as the featured speakers for the Neag School’s third annual Educational Leadership Alumni Forum.

Neag School Dean Gladis Kersaint kicked the event off with welcome remarks, while Richard Gonzales, faculty event co-host and director of the Neag School’s educational leadership preparation programs, spoke on the strength and national prominence of the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP). Gonzales also touched on UCAPP’s involvement in a Wallace Foundation-funded national initiative known as the University Principal Preparatoin Initiative (UPPI), which is focused on improving principal preparation programs across the country.

At a recent national meeting on UPPI, Gonzales said, he listened as the event’s keynote speaker, Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, recognized UCAPP by name in her address as a principal preparation program dedicated to continuous improvement.

“We have a reputation from the past, and we are continuing that reputation,” said Gonzales. “One of the questions I often get is around the UPPI initiative: ‘Why redesign? Why fix what’s not broken?’ The simple answer is because we’ve learned along the way that we can do better — and why shouldn’t we get better?”

“Stay humble. Titles don’t make you a good leader. Action makes you a good leader.”

— Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, Meriden (Conn.) Public Schools

Leadership Lessons
As the first featured alumni speaker of the evening, four-time Neag School alum Cardona spoke about how much he has learned from Neag School’s educational leadership programs and from his family. “I’m really pleased that I have both my UConn family here and my home family,” he said.

Miguel Cardona speaks at Educational Leadership Forum
Four-time Neag School alum Miguel Cardona served as one of the 2017 Educational Leadership Forum’s featured speakers. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

In his address, Cardona went on to share personal stories on leadership, including one anecdote starring members from the UConn men’s basketball team. Spending time one evening on the Storrs campus with his son — a big basketball fan — Cardona and his family happened upon a group of UConn men’s basketball players.

This was, Cardona said, “about the same time the UConn men’s basketball team was on their way to winning a championship, and my son and I watched basketball all the time.”

The players took pictures with his son, gave him a T-shirt, and shook his son’s hand. To Cardona, “That was a leadership lesson: Stay humble. Titles don’t make you a good leader. Action makes you a good leader. Be remembered by testimony, not titles,” he said. “That’s something I learned … from my experiences with UCAPP and the other UConn programs, and a life full of leadership experiences at Meriden.”

Cardona also spoke about his experience co-chairing a statewide commission focused on closing the achievement gap. The group had listened to testimony from stakeholder groups and experts, including faculty and administrators from the University of Connecticut and Neag School, Cardona said.

“If you are going to close any gap, leadership matters,” Cardona said, reflecting on the leadership role Neag School faculty played in the effort. “They were trendsetters for reshaping leadership programming.”

“You can’t simultaneously be all things to all people. It’s a necessary limitation, but requires us to be present at the moment — and to consider the role and the impact of that role at that moment.”

— Bridget Heston Carnemolla,
superintendent, Watertown (Conn.) Public Schools

Balancing Personal Life With Professional Life
Superintendent Carnemolla also served as a featured speaker at the event, sharing how her Neag School journey as part of the doctoral program in educational leadership and the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) helped develop her as a leader.

Bridget Heston Carnemolla speaks at Educational Leadership Forum
Alum Bridget Heston Carnemolla serves as a featured speaker at the third annual Educational Leadership Alumni Forum. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Carnemolla spoke in part about juggling her family life and her position as a school principal while attending the Neag School’s Ed.D. program. Recalling classes led by instructor Robert Villanova, she shared what she learned from him on leadership: “You can’t simultaneously be all things to all people,” Carnemolla said. “It’s a necessary limitation, but requires us to be present at the moment — and to consider the role and the impact of that role at that moment. You also have to know your role as a leader.”

In having shifted from a role as principal to one as superintendent, Carnemolla also says she saw how each of her Neag School educational leadership program experiences served her. “Both the doctoral and executive leadership programs [at the Neag School] prepared me to think of these roles differently and how I could impact positive change,” she said.

Carnemolla reflected on the impact of gender in leadership as well.

“Clearly I’m a female role model, and I have a very specific obligation,” she said. “It is often very different for girls and women who want to be leaders. We face different challenges from our male counterparts.

“We, as strong, competent women who take these positions of power, it’s our moral obligation to teach young people to value everyone and to value everyone’s perspectives,” she added.

Carnemolla credited educators with inspiring her and giving her a tangible goal for who she could be. She was taught, she told the audience, “to find her own voice and to use it for good and challenge things that are unjust.”

“If you are in a current leadership position, I congratulate you and I applaud you,” she says. “If you are just starting, I encourage you to continue. You can, and you will, make a difference.”

Interested in taking your education career to the next level? Find further information about Neag School’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP) or UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) today.

View photos from this year’s Educational Leadership Forum of the event.


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UCAPP’s Summer PLUS Students

Dr. Sarah Woulfin with members from the UCAPP PLUS cohort, summer 2017

This past summer Dr. Sarah Woulfin taught the Educational Policy course to the PLUS Hartford cohort.  Students analyzed multiple current policy issues, including educator evaluation, state assessment policies, school discipline, and the CCJEF decision.  Dr. Carbone, a Hartford Public Schools superintendent and Neag Ed.D. graduate, was a guest speaker on principals’ roles in enacting district initiatives.