Why Leaders Matter

Robert Villanova

We know why great leaders matter: they raise the performance bar and create the conditions for closing achievements gaps.

Lead Connecticut (Lead CT) is a unique partnership established through a competitive RFP process launched by the Talent Office of the Connecticut State Department of Education. LEAD CT partners include: the Connecticut Center for School Change (the managing partner), Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Association of Schools, Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut and New Leaders. The primary “client” of LEAD CT is the Talent Office of the CSDE.

The LEAD CT partnership exists to help build school and district leadership capacity by designing and implementing high quality professional development that provides Connecticut school and district leaders with:

  • Opportunities for practice, research and reflection:  This includes communities of practice for turnaround principals, district leaders, executive coaches, and principal candidate residents where participants work together to identify and solve problems of practice.
  • Job-embedded support and professional learning focused on high-leverage leadership skills:  The LEAD Connecticut Turnaround Competencies serve as a guide to regular coaching sessions for turnaround principals. Additionally, ongoing training for executive coaches ensures cutting edge practice that has a ripple effect for leadership practice.
  • Problem solving through collegiality and collaborative action: The unique structure of the LEAD Connecticut partnership ensures cross-agency collaboration to support the unique challenges of turnaround leadership in Connecticut’s most impacted schools and districts. Multiple aligned supports at the school and district level ensure a coherent approach to school and district improvement.
  • Specific, relevant and actionable feedback in a cycle of continuous improvement: Principals, coaches, and district leaders receive regular feedback related to their Theory of Action and strategic plan. LEAD CT follows a “Cycle of Inquiry” model of continuous improvement, empowering leaders to engage their stakeholders in the growth of the school and district.

By leveraging and synthesizing the distributed expertise of its partners, LEAD CT aims to help districts recruit, prepare, develop and retain educational leaders able to create the school and district conditions to strengthen student achievement. While LEAD CT has a priority focus on the schools and districts most in need of support and improvement , the partnership has had influence across all Connecticut districts, schools and classrooms.

Our theory of action is quite clear:  If we provide the highest quality programs and services to build the capacity of school and district leaders, then these leaders will have the skills and knowledge to provide the necessary conditions for high quality instruction in every classroom and, most importantly, the capacity to create the conditions for improving learning opportunities and results for every child.


This post is part of our “Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning” series. To learn more about Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning, see:

Robert Villanova currently serves as the Director of the Executive Leadership Program (superintendent preparation and certification) at the University of Connecticut, Neag School of Education and the Director of LEAD CT. Follow him on Twitter @rmv1950.


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