PK-3 Leadership Program

Staying in Storrs: Ed.D. Alumna Joins PK-3 Leadership Program

The University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership is fortunate to have well-connected alumni who continue to work with the university post-graduation or who have returned after years of work in diverse professional settings. The “Staying in Storrs” series highlights our talented EDLR program alumni and the work they are currently doing with UConn. This feature focuses on the PK-3 Leadership Program and Ed.D. Program.

Ed.D. student Tayarisha Stone is writing down strategies on a large yellow post-it, during her time in the Ed.D. Program
Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor engages in classroom activities while obtaining her Ed.D. degree. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School of Education

This March, Dr. Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor, Principal of Rawson STEAM School in Hartford, CT, will return to her alma mater at the University of Connecticut to co-facilitate the latest module for the PK-3 Leadership Program.  Stone-Batchelor will be teaching alongside her Ed.D. classmate and returning PK-3 instructor, Dr. Roszena Haskins.

The Leading for Equity, Excellence, and Early Success module focuses on the critical components of leadership inside schools, the community, and across government and private agencies. Stone-Batchelor’s experience in the education field is extensive and includes a doctorate in education from The Department of Educational’s Ed.D. program. She graduated in 2017, and during her time as a student was actively involved with her cohort, which enabled her to strengthen her leadership skills by working with different students both inside and outside of her classroom experiences. She shares the most important part of being a leader is being able to be collaborative.

“To be successful in partnerships, it is imperative to have people working together, listening to other voices, and most importantly, being open to hearing other views.” – Tayarisha Stone-Batchelor

Stone-Batchelor used the strong leaderships skills she developed while in the Neag program to build and sustain positive relationships like the one with EDLR’s Husky Sport Program, an in-school and after-school program geared towards engaging Hartford youth through healthy nutrition, positive life skills and physical literacy.

In addition to her work and experience at UConn, Stone-Batchelor has been the principal of Rawson Elementary School in Hartford for the last 8 years. She was interested in working in an urban district to apply her expertise in developing a new model that would ensure all students have equal access and can compete for future jobs.  As the principal, Stone-Batchelor strives to give her students STEM opportunities that fully immerse and engage them. Stone-Batchelor’s efforts towards improving urban schools goes hand in hand with the passion she has for using her platform to become a voice for minorities. In February of 2019, she was recognized by the Voices of Women of Color earning the Trailblazer award for providing Women of Color with leadership skills that lead to employment opportunities and success in their communities.   

Because of Neag’s integral role in her success as an administrator, Stone-Batchelor has decided to return to Storrs. She hopes to give others the same experience she had, share what she has learned, and encourage and inspire others who undecided on their career path. She says that she made the decision to come back and teach at Neag because she sees that education has an impact on students and she wants to be a part of it. Specifically, Stone-Batchelor is excited to work with adult leaders, serving PK-3 aged students. 

What sets this program apart from others, says Stone-Batchelor, is that Neag’s PK-3 program uses modules that bring together an expert panel as a means to incorporate all perspectives and create a bigger picture for educators.  She believes it is important to expose educators to strategies that she has picked up in her time working in an urban district and she plans to implement the whole-child perspective which focuses on considering the child’s family as well stating,

“We’ve danced around the achievement gap for over a decade now,” she says. “We need to look at programs that partner with families early on so that we can break down the barriers early.”

Throughout her career, Stone-Batchelor has always kept a certain question in mind: how do we sustain what we have built so far and make it better? As she takes on this new role as PK-3 instructor, Stone-Batchelor says she finally hopes to be able to answer that question.

PK-3 Leadership Program’s Instructor: Noam Sturm

This fall, Noam Sturm, Principal of Roaring Brook School in Avon and UConn alumnus, will return to facilitate the second module of UConn Neag’s PK-3 Leadership Program.  The module, which focuses on assessment and evaluation, brings together a team of nationally-renowned experts to explore the nuances of assessment at the PK-3 level.

Sturm has over two decades of experience in the field of elementary education, including time spent as a teacher, curriculum specialist,assistant principal, and now principal in the Avon Public School system.  In addition, Sturm has served on a multitude of committees and boards, which includes his involvement in the Systemic Instructional Improvement Program (SIIP) through the Connecticut Center for School Change; his service as a LEAD CT Policy and Practice Fellow through New Leaders; and his leadership as a Board Member of Great by 8, a regional initiative to improve access to high-quality services in the areas of early childhood education and health.

This is Sturm’s fourth year as a facilitator for the PK-3 Leadership Program, and he has been a member of the UConn community for even longer: he earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and sixth-year diploma in Educational Leadership at UConn.  According to Program Director Dr. Karen List, Sturm’s unique combination of “sharp intellect, creativity and flexibility” make him an ideal facilitator for the PK-3 Leadership program. Furthermore, said List, “Noam has worked with a wide range of children and families, from those in abject poverty to those with great wealth. He’s experienced with bilingual families. He’s adept at bringing coherency across and within the grades, and he believes in continuous improvement.”

Sturm said that the upcoming module of the PK-3 Leadership Program approaches assessment from all angles, from assessment of children at the PK-3 level to assessment of PK-3 teachers.  

More broadly, said Sturm,“The program offers tools to help people be advocates for our field. We all need to serve as ambassadors for the age-3 to grade-3 continuum.”

“Education is measured ever more tightly,” said Sturm, “and as educators, we want to make sure we can support our programs. In this module, we deal with real questions: How do I pitch my own program?  What are the metrics I can provide to the Board of Education, to taxpayers to show that there are substantial benefits?” Sturm and List have incorporated these questions into the curriculum to help participants gain a deeper understanding of how to address these issues that are so crucial to success in the field of early childhood education. As a result of his extensive service in the field, said List, “Noam is uniquely well-positioned to be the instructor for this module.”

PK-3 Leadership Program’s Instructor: Kerry Jones

This July, Kerry Jones, Director of Elementary Education for West Hartford Public Schools, returned to successfully facilitate the first module of Neag’s 2018-2019 PK-3 Leadership Program. The module, entitled Curriculum and Instruction, covers a diverse range of topics and brings together a team of experts to help participants dig deeper into curricular design for the PreK-3 level.

Kerry Jones headshot
Kerry Jones, Director of Elementary Education for West Hartford Public Schools and PK-3 Leadership Instructor.

Jones’ background in the field of PreK-3 education is both remarkable and extensive. She is now in her sixth year as Director of Elementary Education for West Hartford Public Schools, where she is responsible for PreK-5 curriculum, instruction, and professional development, as well as for K-12 reading intervention. In 2013, she completed the UConn Neag School of Education’s Executive Leadership Program. She holds a Master’s degree in Language and Literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and, prior to her current position, had 5 years of experience as a building-based leader (elementary assistant principal and principal) and 15 years of experience as an elementary school teacher and teacher-leader.

On top of her rich background in PreK-3 education, this will be Jones’ fourth year teaching in the PK-3 Leadership Program. According to Program Director Dr. Karen List, Jones is a fantastic fit for the program:

“Kerry understands adult learning. Helping educators focus on what is important in their unique setting requires a laser focus on each individual. Kerry brings this quality along with her vast expertise and enthusiasm.”

According to Jones, “Equity is a through line throughout the whole PK-3 program, and certainly the Curriculum and Instruction module.” For PreK-3 educators, said Jones, equitable instruction means a whole range of things, from dynamic learning environment design to developmentally-appropriate learning progressions to targeted allocation of resources to where needs are greatest. Jones said that the PK-3 Leadership Program’s small group cohort model allows for authentic conversations about the challenges of implementing and sustaining quality, equitable PK-3 education.

One of the program’s most valuable offerings, said Jones, is the opportunity to widen the tapestry of support with other educator-leaders. “Leaders in the PK-3 program gain a foundation and meaningful connection with educators across Connecticut,” said Jones. She noted that in her own career those connections and mentors who “both strengthen you and provide the tough advice when you need it” have been invaluable.

Effective leadership at the PreK-3 level is crucial, said Jones. “If you’re just going from fire to fire to fire, you’ll end up burnt out. You have to step away and look at things systemically, strategically.” The 2018-2019 PK-3 Leadership Program creates a space to balance the micro and the macro, said Jones. “It inspires educational leaders to facilitate reflection, dialogue, and action within their own settings and communities.”

PK-3 Leadership Program’s Instructor: Roszena Haskins

Roszena Haskins
Roszena Haskins, Ed.D. grad and current PK-3 Leadership Instructor. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay

This Spring, a former Ed.D. student, Roszena Haskins (‘17) will begin facilitating the third and final module of the 2017-18 PreK-3 Leadership Program at the University of Connecticut. The module titled, Leading for Equity, Excellence and Early Success, covers a variety of topics with the ultimate goal of preparing educators to build a school culture led by caring, competent, and well rounded leaders.

Like all the facilitators who join the PreK-3 Leadership Program team, Haskins is an expert in her field. She has over 20 years of experience as an educator and a strong passion for equity and diversity. Currently serving as the West Hartford Director of Adult and Continuing Education and the district’s Director of Diversity Advancement, Haskins works with other members of West Hartford Public School’s Equity and Diversity Council to strengthen the cultural competence of the district and advance institutional equity. Her multiple roles in district-wide early education and diversity initiatives require her to stay up-to-date on ever-changing federal, state, and local policy changes. This expertise coupled with a commitment to the children, caregivers, and community has prepared Haskins for her upcoming role as an instructor with the PreK-3 Leadership Program.

Haskins is excited to share her experiences as she explains, “Navigation across agencies, organizations, and constituents is something I enjoy personally and professionally and hope to contribute to the PreK-3 Leadership Program.”

In addition to her direct experience in the field, Haskins is an accomplished researcher. Her doctoral dissertation for the University of Connecticut’s Ed.D. program focused on Black and Latino students disproportionately leaving college without a degree as a result of low access to college-level courses and extended time spent completing developmental education requirements. She bridges her research and the importance of initiatives like the PreK-3 Leadership program by explaining,

“Longitudinal research shows that investing in high quality early education programs, leveraged by highly competent, knowledgeable and skillful leaders promotes post-secondary success and improved life changes as adults.”

Haskins looks forward to working with other state leaders, as well as the Expert Advisory Panel, who are passionate about early childhood development and inclusion. She stated, “I continue to be eager to contribute to building the leadership capacity of committed educators through an equity-focused lens.”

The PreK-3 Leadership Program is thrilled to Dr. Haskins on board, as Program Director Dr. Karen List describes her as “very hard working,” with a “strong background in diversity and PK-12 leadership,” Dr. List adds,

“She genuinely connects with people. The importance of relationships is evident in her style.”