About Us | Leadership Team

Partners for Educational Leadership’s team brings over 200 years of hands-on experience and deep expertise to our partnerships. Prior to joining the team, its staff members served as principals, central office leaders, superintendents, instructional coaches, university researchers, and policy makers. Our staff offers practical, seasoned, in-depth expertise in large-scale instructional improvement, disrupting inequity, systems change, leadership development, adult learning, executive coaching, and family and community engagement.

Richard Lemons

Executive Director

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Richard brings over 25 years of experience to the organization, formerly serving as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, change coach, researcher, policy advocate and university professor. Regardless of the role, Richard’s professional career is defined by a commitment to the large-scale improvement of instruction and leadership aimed at bringing about more equitable outcomes for young people. Richard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina State University, and master’s and doctorates in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard. Richard co-authored Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming our Schools with his colleagues at the Harvard Change Leadership Group. He has published numerous book chapters and articles in periodicals including KappanJournal of Staff DevelopmentASCD ExpressVoices in Urban Education (VUE), and Education Canada. Richard also serves as a faculty member for Yale University’s Education Studies Program. In addition to working with the board to provide leadership for the organization, Richard helps facilitate the Superintendents’ Network, teaches in the annual Equity Institute and works closely with numerous district clients on strategic planning, central office transformation and capacity and coherence audits.

Richard Lemons

Jerry Belair

Director of District Partnerships

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Jerry joined the organization after 39 years in public education, including serving as superintendent in Waterford and Weston. Earlier in his career, he served as assistant superintendent in Southington and as principal of a nationally-recognized Blue Ribbon Middle School during his 16 years in East Lyme. Under his leadership, Weston High School was ranked as the top high school in Connecticut and in the top 1 percent of high schools in the country by US News and World Report. In 1997, Jerry was recognized by the New England League of Middle Schools for his distinguished service in advancing middle-level education. He served as president of NELMS and on the board of the National Middle School Association. Jerry served as a contributing editor to the monthly National Middle School Journal and published a chapter in “Becoming a Middle School:  A Successful Transition.” He holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, advance degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Southern CT State University, and is an adjunct professor at UConn. Jerry co-facilitates the SIIP Network of Assistant Superintendents and supports instructional improvement for all students, facilitates the development of leadership teams, coaches leaders and advances systemic improvement.

Jerry Belair

Rydell Harrison

Program Coordinator

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Rydell Harrison joined the Center in 2021. Prior to working with the Center, Rydell served as the Superintendent of Schools in Easton-Redding-Region 9 and Watertown. Before moving to Connecticut, he was the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS). Rydell began his career as a music teacher in New Jersey, and has 22 years in education, working across all three levels. In CHCCS, Rydell also served as Executive Director of Professional Development. In 2016, Rydell received the Award for Excellence in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools District Administration. Prior to working in the district office, Rydell served as an elementary and middle school principal and assistant principal in Guilford County Schools and was the principal at Phillips Middle School in CHCCS. Throughout his career, Rydell has worked to develop equity-focused initiatives designed to personalize learning, build teacher capacity and eliminate racial disparities in student outcomes. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Rutgers University and a Master of Divinity from Duke University. He also holds a Master of School Administration, Specialist in Education and Doctor of Education in School Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Rydell Harrison

Roberta Kurlantzick

Program Coordinator

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Roberta brings to the organization over 35 years’ experience in teaching, school leadership, and school improvement.  Prior to joining the staff, she served as a teacher and teacher leader in several school districts and as principal of two schools in Farmington, CT, one of which was recognized with a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence. During her tenure in Farmington, she led every phase of school development for the opening of a new intermediate school and was selected as a Connecticut National Distinguished Principal.  While a principal, she also consulted with districts across the state on multiple aspects of literacy instruction. After her retirement, Roberta consulted with school districts and the State Department of Education on aspects of school improvement. As a program coordinator, Roberta works directly with school districts on systemic instructional improvement; she also coaches school leaders and has co-facilitated a network of central office and school leaders.  She holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University, and she completed a sixth year in curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut

Roberta Kurlantzick

Kerry Lord

Director of Programs

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Over the last 28 years, Kerry Lord has enjoyed an exciting career as a public educator.  As an elementary teacher in San Francisco, Kerry worked with the Exploratorium Science Museum and the San Francisco Modern Art Museum to incorporate art and science inquiry into the school curriculum. During her 10 years in the Bay Area, Kerry taught elementary and middle school and began her Administrative career as an Assistant Principal at the Middle level. As a school leader in Denver, Kerry served as a principal at the elementary level for 10 years, and then became the Executive Director at a K-12 Expeditionary Learning public school of choice. In 2009 Kerry was recognized by the Commissioner of Education for her school’s outstanding student growth.  She was appointed by the Governor of Colorado to sit on the High School Graduation Guidelines Council, and contracted by the Colorado Department of Education to review school improvement plans for the alternative high schools in Denver. Kerry holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, a Master’s in Education from San Francisco State University, and is an instructor for the Residency Program for School Leaders.  Kerry is the project manager for the annual Equity Institute, works with district leaders to address systemic inequities, coaches and mentors school leaders, and facilitates communities of practice designed to support school leaders.

Kerry Lord

Patrice Nelson

Program Coordinator

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Patrice Nelson joined the organization in 2003 as a program coordinator focused on providing technical assistance and coaching to districts and leadership teams on systemic instructional improvement efforts. Prior to her work with the organization, Patrice worked in public and private education in New Mexico, Massachusetts and Connecticut as a teacher, curriculum developer and facilitator, and district wide coordinator. For three years, she drew on skills in curriculum design, school-community partnerships and leadership to work with districts across Connecticut as a facilitator for the Understanding by Design curriculum development and as a coach and facilitator to nine Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools. Patrice received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Smith College and her Sixth Year Certificate in Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford. Patrice continues to work with district and school leaders on systemic instructional improvement and equity including family and community partnerships, instructional improvement and leadership development. Having co-authored the Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (Parents SEE) curriculum in her early years at the organization, she continues to oversee and coordinate implementation of the training in communities across Connecticut.

Patrice Nelson

Isobel Stevenson

Director of Organizational Learning

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Isobel joined the organization in 2013. Prior to coming to Connecticut, Isobel was Chief Academic Officer for a Denver metro area district, where she supervised the instructional program for the district. Before moving to a central office position, Isobel was a principal; a curriculum coordinator, and taught high school special education and social studies. She also served on the AP Committee of the College Board for AP Geography and was a consultant for National Geographic. Isobel has taught in three different principal preparation programs: University of Denver, San Jose State University, and UConn. Isobel holds an undergraduate degree from Oxford University, a Masters in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin, where she also obtained her principal’s license. She has a PhD in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University, and is a Professional Certified Coach. Isobel’s work at the organization includes equity, leadership coaching and training coaches; strategic planning and improvement; and supporting instructional improvement. Isobel is the co-author of The Strategy Playbook for Educational Leaders: Principles and Process (Routledge, 2021), and several articles on leadership and coaching which you can find on our Publications page. Isobel also writes a newsletter for educational leaders and coaches, The Coaching Letter, which you can sign up to receive in your inbox.

Isobel Stevenson

Bridget Nahabedian

Executive Assistant

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Bridget joined the organization in 2015 to pursue a lifelong goal of working in education. In 2006 Bridget obtained a Bachelor’s degree at Keene State College where she was actively involved on campus by working as a Resident Assistant, Orientation Student Leader, and Peer Advisor. Bridget obtained a Master’s degree from Quinnipiac University in 2009 studying secondary English education. After graduate school Bridget worked in both the retail and non-profit sectors before joining the team. As Executive Assistant, Bridget’s work includes staff and program support, event planning and coordination, public relations, graphic design, as well as website and social media management.

Paula Norato

Intern

Paula joined the organization in 2021 through the Internship and Professional Practice Program from the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. In 2020, Paula obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut, and continues to work there as a Graduate Assistant for the Innovation House Learning Community. She is the Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Movement United in Recognizing Afro-Latinidad (MURAL), and works with this group to address racism and colorism within the Latine community. As the IPP intern, Paula provides support with the Acceleration Network Learning Community, communications, and strategic planning.

Paula Norato

Staff Associates

Laura Boutilier

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Laura joined the organization after eight years as assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in Rocky Hill. Prior to Rocky Hill, she served as principal of two middle schools, both having gained the honor as a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Middle School for Excellence. In 1993, Laura was recognized as Middle School Principal of the Year by the CT Association of Schools. She was president of the CT Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and served as adjunct faculty at the University of Connecticut and University of St. Joseph. Laura holds advanced degrees from UConn and CCSU. As staff associate, Laura partners with school districts on systemic instructional improvement, leadership development and instructional rounds as a process for school improvement. She co-facilitates the Systemic Instructional Improvement Program (SIIP), which includes assistant superintendents from across Connecticut. She also serves as a leadership coach for a number of principals and assistant superintendents, and facilitates communities of practice in a variety of districts. Improving educational outcomes for all students serves as her ultimate goal in partnering with educators.

Elizabeth E. Feser

For 16 years, from 2002-2018, Elizabeth Feser served as a Connecticut Superintendent, seven years in the Milford Public Schools and nine years in the Windsor Public Schools. In both districts she led improvements in teaching and learning resulting in higher quality educational programs, increased leader and teacher efficacy, stronger student performance, narrowing of achievement gaps, and greater support for the public schools by the community at large.

Elizabeth’s professional career has included serving in three states, working in both urban and suburban districts. She was an active member of the Superintendents’ Network for 15 years. Elizabeth was honored as Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year in 2015 by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. She was also honored with the CAPSS Emeritus Award and the CAPSS Presidential Award, both in 2018.

Elizabeth holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Xavier College (Chicago) and master’s degree from Boston College. She earned a second master’s degree and her doctorate in Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Elizabeth Feser

Eileen S. Howley

Eileen S. Howley recently retired from her position as Executive Director of LEARN, a regional educational service center serving southeastern CT and the shoreline. In this position she continued to advance the vision of high quality public education for all children through innovative practices, collaboration and service to the educational community. Prior to LEARN, she served as Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum in the West Hartford Public Schools, Interim Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent in the Farmington Public Schools. She also served as the Bureau Chief of Curriculum at the Connecticut State Department of Education, a teacher and staff development specialist with Area Cooperative Educational Services, a professor at Central CT State University, and as a teacher of English.

Eileen has consulted with districts across the state and the country on best practices in large scale instructional improvement, school and district improvement, curriculum design and development, and teacher and leader development. She has been a long time contributor to the CSDE work in teacher and leader assessment, including the Connecticut Competency Instrument, the Connecticut Common Core of Teaching portfolio guidelines, and the development of personal and professional leadership characteristics for school and district leaders. She earned her doctorate at the University of Hartford and focused her research on expert teacher development. She earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Central Connecticut State University and her Bachelor’s degree from St. Michael’s College, Winooski, Vermont.

Elizabeth M. Osga

Elizabeth M. Osga served for 14 years as district superintendent in Griswold and Lyme-Old Lyme, Conn. These roles directly supported student achievement, instructional leadership, campus renewal, program development, resource management and district restructuring.

Among her awards and recognitions, Elizabeth was named as Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year in 2011 and Stonington’s Teacher of the Year in 1985 and 1990, and a CT State Teacher of the Year semi-finalist in 1990. Since her retirement, she has served as a consultant for the CSDE Talent Office, LEAD CT, NESDEC, CAPSS Women’s Leadership Group and numerous Connecticut districts.

Elizabeth earned a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University, a MS degree in Language Arts from Eastern Connecticut State University, a 6th Year in Teaching the Talented from UCONN, and a PhD in Educational Administration from University of Connecticut.

Elizabeth Osga

John J. Ramos, Sr.

Dr. John Ramos, Sr., a longtime champion of equity and excellence, began his career in the social service sector as a program developer and instructor at the Opportunities Industrialization Center, and Director of Education and Employment at the Urban League. After a brief foray into banking, Dr. Ramos dedicated his career to institutional capacity-building in public and private sector organizations at the local, state, national and international levels

Dr. Ramos has been recognized as a visionary leader, a change agent and an organizational healer due to his successes in repairing and mending the social fabric, expectations and coherence necessary for an organization to maintain a healthy functional state, especially following crises or setbacks. Dr. Ramos has served as the Principal of Norwalk High School (CT), Deputy Commissioner of Education in the State of Connecticut, and the Superintendent of Schools in both Watertown, CT and Bridgeport, CT, and Interim Superintendent in Groton, CT. He then took on the role of Principal/CEO at Middle East International School in Qatar, focusing on the achievement of US accreditation. After two years in the Middle East, he returned stateside to serve as Superintendent of the School District of South Orange and Maplewood in New Jersey. Most recently, he returned to Watertown to serve as Interim Superintendent during the autumn, 2020 COVID crisis.

​Dr. Ramos is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Rhode Island, the Ethics in Education Award from the Connecticut School of Ethical Education, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. International Award from the State of Israel, the Living Waters Award from the United Church of Christ, Connecticut Conference and a graduate of Leadership Rhode Island and the Norwalk Community Leadership Institute. Various schools under his stewardship have been cited for National School Change, U.S. Blue Ribbon, and community and foundation distinctions, as well.

Respected for his inspirational human relations and communication skills, Dr. Ramos has engaged colleagues and stakeholders in multifaceted venues. Results of his insightful report, “Closing the Gap: The Institutionalization of Learning Communities,” were published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and remain relevant today.

John J. Ramos Sr

Kathryn Serino

Kath Serino (formerly Veronesi) began her career in education as a high school teacher working with students in East Haddam in public school and residential schools. From there she worked in the Cheshire Public School system as an Educational Diagnostician and was honored as Teacher of the Year in 2001. Kath began her administrative career as the Assistant Principal of the Middle School of Plainville and then as Principal of Gilead Hill School in Hebron where she was a CT Association of School’s Principal of the Year Finalist. Kath served as Superintendent of Schools in Regional School District 13 (Durham/Middlefield) for 7 years prior to retiring in January 2021.

Throughout her career, Kath has been engaged in leading people and processes to create systems that enhance organizational well-being and district and community-wide collaboration and improvement. Kath is able to facilitate high level group processes in order to develop and sustain strategic planning and growth in the areas of instruction including development of professional learning communities and instructional rounds; school and community race and equity efforts; declining enrollment, school closures, and district restructuring; school building projects, international partnerships; and overall safety and security.

Kath earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership as well as her Master’s in Special Education and Sixth Year at Central Connecticut State University. Her Bachelor’s degree was completed at Clark University in Worcester, MA.

Kathy Serino

Robert M. Villanova

Robert Villanova serves as a district leadership consultant for the Partners for Educational Leadership. He was a charter member of the Superintendents’ Network and now works as a facilitator/consultant in support of the Superintendents’ Network and other Center leadership development initiatives. Bob also serves on the faculty of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, and is the director of the Executive Leadership Program.

From 1993 through January 2009, Bob served as superintendent of the Farmington, Connecticut Public Schools. He was honored as the Neag School of Education Outstanding Superintendent in 2003 and the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents’ Superintendent of the Year in 2008. He was also honored with the CAPSS Emeritus Award in 2012, Educational Leader of the Year in 2013 by the CT Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the CAPSS Presidential Award in 2017. He was appointed in March 2013 as the director of LEAD Connecticut. He continues to be involved in numerous leadership-development initiatives including organizing and presenting Advanced Leadership Development Seminars for superintendents in Connecticut, supporting the professional development partnership between the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Neag School of Education, and providing leadership development institutes for district leadership teams and boards of education. He also has served an executive coach for more than 15 Connecticut superintendents over the past few years.

Robert Villanova