Educational Leadership Alumni Forum Photos, 2019

The Neag School of Education hosted the 5th annual Educational Leadership Forum on Oct. 22, 2019 at the Darien Community Association in Hartford, Conn. This year’s event, included a networking reception with colleagues, students, and faculty from the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) and Executive Leadership Program (ELP). The event featured a panel discussion focused on recruiting and supporting the next generation of leaders in education and featured UCAPP alumnus Jonathan Budd ’03 6th Year who was recognized for his outstanding portfolio of work. The program included Alan Addley ’08 ELP, ’14 Ed.D., Darien Public Schools Superintendent; Robert Villanova, Executive Leadership Program Director; Miguel Cardona ’01 MA, ’04 6th Year, ’11 EdD, ’12 ELP, Connecticut State Commissioner of Education; Tamu Lucero, Stamford Public Schools Superintendent; and Chip Dumais ’09 ELP, Cooperative Educational Services Executive Director. View the photo album.

Student-Professional Feature: Sarhanna Smith

Sarhanna Smith, a student in the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) at the University of Connecticut, works hard to maintain an academic and professional career as both a full-time student and Principal of Read School in Bridgeport, CT. Smith’s teaching journey began in 1994 with her very first teaching position in grade three in Washington, DC, and then teaching first and second grades at an interdistrict magnet school in Connecticut run by Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES). She later taught older students who were identified as struggling readers. After earning her Master of Science in Reading in 2003, Smith became a literacy coach for the interdistrict magnet school. Through her work as a literacy coach, she worked with a district-wide committee to co-author the Scientific Research Based Interventions (SRBI) plan for the school district. In 2012, as a student in the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP), Smith earned her sixth-year diploma in educational leadership and became assistant principal of Thomas Edison Magnet School in Meriden, CT from 2011 to 2013, then of Hamden High School in Hamden, CT from 2013 to 2014. She has been principal of Read School since 2014.

Sarhanna Smith in front of art wall

Smith’s commitment to education goes above and beyond teaching. She is actively engaged with district-wide committees, teacher organizations, and she challenges Connecticut to take action towards social change. Working to make her district stronger by “focusing beyond just the school level,” as Smith says, is vital in her success as an administrator. Another of Smith’s pursuits is part of Educators for Excellence-CT, a teacher-led organization out of Bridgeport, CT, whose objective is to make different routes to certification fair and accessible to teachers of color. In its beginning stages, Smith had the privilege of taking part in the creation of Educators for Excellence-CT’s policy paper, which has already grabbed the attention of the CT legislature and governor. But attention, Smith notes, is not enough: social change and action are needed to give qualified teachers of color access to available teaching positions. Smith is a firm believer that students learn best when exposed to content they can identify with and as a result, are able to connect to teachers who care about them, share and respect their social identities, and represent a more diverse population of educators. 

To other student-professionals, Smith emphasizes the importance of building a strong support network and connecting with others within your professional cohort. Smith advises other working mothers like herself to never give up and seek the support of peers and professionals within your cohort. As a student-professional, Smith understands the importance of time management. She believes she is strengthened both as a professional and as an individual pursuing a career in executive leadership as well as continuing her education as a full-time student. By holding a leadership position, Smith sees it a priority to be an example of hard work and ethics to her students. Smith says,

“Young people are constantly watching and learning from the adults around them”

and as a result, you are responsible for setting a good example for your students as well as for other up-and-coming professionals in the field. 

Whether it’s principal, student, or committee work, she admits,

“There’s never a time when I have no work to do.”

Craig Cooke Earns 2019 Neag Alumni Award for Outstanding School Superintendent

UConn’s Neag School of Education shared ELP Alumnus, Craig Cooke has earned the Alumni Award for Outstanding School Superintendent, stating “For the past five years, Craig Cooke has served as superintendent of Windsor (Conn.) Public Schools, where he is responsible for managing the school district, including overseeing a $69 million budget. Prior to that role, he served as the assistant superintendent of human resources for the district of more than 650 educators and support staff. Cooke also previously served as the human resources director for Enfield (Conn.) Public Schools.”

Cooke will receive his award on March 16, 2019.