The Center for Leadership and Innovation


In the spring of 2000, at the urging of the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and following the merger of the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) and the Elementary and Middle School Principals Association of Connecticut (EMSPAC), CAS established the Connecticut Principals’ Center.

Its founding purpose was to address the professional development and related needs of practicing principals and to support the professional development of aspiring principals. Since then, the CSDE has been an important partner with CAS in developing the Principals’ Center by providing both technical assistance and financial support.

In 2017, the Principals’ Center was renamed the Center for Leadership and Innovation to reflect its expanded programming, which now reaches all school leaders and aspiring leaders, not just building principals. Additionally, the new name conveys the Center’s focus on professional learning that encompasses the latest developments in our field as well as best practices associated with leadership success.


The Center for Leadership and Innovation is committed to supporting school leaders’ efforts to enhance teaching, learning and leading in the schools of Connecticut by:

  • implementing quality programs to attract and develop future school leaders;
  • providing quality, research-based leadership development programs for beginning and experienced school leaders; and
  • advancing the understanding of and advocacy for issues relevant to school leaders;
  • recognizing, celebrating and sharing exemplary achievement and best practices;

The Center is comprised of an elementary, middle and high school division, each organized around a board of control and with a standing committee structure.

Experienced principals, consultants, and central office and state department personnel serve on these boards and committees to plan and implement activities relevant to their focus.


The Center is governed by the Center for Leadership and Innovation Advisory Board which is made up of experienced principals, representatives of graduate and under-graduate educational leadership and other educational programs, educational consultants, central office personnel, and an associate commissioner of education who represents the CSDE.

Center programs are organized around four strands which frame the Center’s purpose. Each of the strands has its own committee of school administrators and consultants who plan and implement activities relevant to its focus.


Programs organized around the four strands annually support hundreds of school leaders throughout Connecticut.

Recent examples include:

Strand I - Future School Leaders
Implementing Quality Programs to Attract and Develop Future School Leaders
  • Leadership Academies – these year-long professional development series are focused on building leadership capacity at the teacher-leader level both within buildings and at the district level.
  • Southern Connecticut State University Intern Program – educational leadership interns attend Center for Leadership and Innovation professional development programs as part of their clinical preparation.
  • UCAPP – the Center for Leadership and Innovation, in partnership with the university, manages the twelve credit clinical component of the University of Connecticut Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP).
Strand II - Career Principals
Providing Quality Research-Based Leadership Development Programs for Beginning and Experienced Principals
  • CAS Conferences – statewide conferences organized around a theme with applications for school leaders at every level.
  • Complimentary Managers Program – district-funded program using trained retired administrators who assume the daily managerial tasks of administrator which then allows building leaders to focus on instructional leadership activities with their teachers.
  • Connecticut Core State Standards Leadership Community of Practice – a multi-session program designed to assist school/district leaders in effective implementation of the Connecticut Core State Standards.
  • Early Childhood Symposia – professional development for school leaders focusing on “Getting Pre-K to Grade 3 Right” with language, mathematics and executive function.
  • Educator Evaluation Workshops – CAS-led workshops that train educational leaders on both the teacher and administrator evaluation and support programming.
  • New Leaders Academy – an induction program for new administrators pairing each with an experienced mentor and offering both a sequence of professional development activities.
  • NEASC Accreditation Support – a two-day training program for high school administrators and key teachers designed to help schools understand and prepare for the NEASC school improvement and assessment process.

  • Principals’ Leadership Series – a year-long leadership development series based upon the McREL research monograph, “Changing the Odds for Student Success–What Matters Most.”
  • School Climate and Bullying – statewide and regional conferences to inform school leaders of the requirements of the new anti-bullying legislation and conferences for teachers and student leaders to promote positive school climate.
  • Student Success Plans – a series of regional conferences to inform school leaders of the requirements of SSP legislation and to share best practices.
  • Summer Leadership Institute – a two-day residential program offered each summer focusing on the skills needed by school leaders to succeed in today’s climate of accountability.
Strand III - Critical Issues
Advocacy & Influence
CAS member school leaders and CAS staff work collaboratively with educational policy making organizations at all levels to ensure a “voice at the table” for school leaders when issues of importance for school life are being considered. Structures facilitating this include:

  • Connecticut Coalition for Public Education – CAS leadership meets monthly with the leaders of eight state organizations representing teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members.
  • CAS Legislative Committee – with the assistance of a lobbyist, the committee tracks legislation, surveys members, and testifies with regard to education-related bills being considered in the Connecticut State Legislature.
  • Formal Affiliations – CAS is affiliated with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the National Middle School Association, the New England League of Middle Schools, and the Connecticut Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Ad Hoc Memberships – CAS member school leaders and CAS staff are involved in major planning and policy initiatives (e.g. secondary school reform, performance evaluation of teachers and administrators, middle level teacher certification, administrative certification, state strategic planning, Early Childhood Education, etc.) emanating from the CSDE and other organizations.
  • RESC Alliance/SERC – CAS meets multiple times a year with representatives of the State Education Resource Center, the Regional Education Service Centers and the CSDE to collaborate on efforts to strengthen school leadership.
  • CT Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALAS) – CAS partners with this organization which is committed to supporting quality and equitable education for Latino students. Membership meetings and professional development opportunities to further the advancement of Latino students are held at CAS.
Strand IV - Recognition
Exemplary achievements and “best practices” are recognized, celebrated and shared in a variety of ways. These include:
  • CAS School of the Year – an outstanding middle school and an outstanding elementary school are selected and celebrated each year.
  • Distinguished Friend of Education Awards – these awards honor an individual and an organization/corporation outside the field of education that have made significant contributions toward the advancement of education in Connecticut.
  • Elementary and High School Arts Recognition Programs – elementary and high schools have an opportunity to recognize two outstanding student artists annually.
  • Exemplary Educator Awards – outstanding teachers from each level are recognized as the Elementary, Middle and High School Exemplary Educators.
  • Exemplary School Climate Practices – this program provides recognition for elementary, middle and high schools emphasizing the fact that positive climate factors are embedded in almost all aspects of school life in successful schools.
  • Governor’s Scholars Award Luncheon – academically talented juniors who rank in the top 5% of their class are nominated to represent their high school at the luncheon. Selected scholars are chosen on the basis of a required essay and other factors such as SAT/PSAT scores and grade point average.
  • Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year Awards – outstanding elementary, middle, and high school principals and assistant principals are selected and celebrated each year.
  • William Cieslukowski Outstanding First Year Principal Awards – first-year principals whose instructional practices and/or managerial skills have had a positive impact upon their school
    and/or district are recognized. Awards are given at each level: elementary, middle and high school.