EASTCONN Where Learning Comes to Life

EASTCONN Restructures Professional Learning Group to Build Capacity


EASTCONN’s Teaching and Learning division has undergone a transformation. 

Not only has it expanded its staff and capacity for delivering high-quality professional learning, it has also changed its name – from Teaching and Learning, to Leading and Learning. 

 “We’ve hired wonderful, new, high-powered staff to complement our existing staff and increase the depth and breadth of professional learning and support we can provide to our
districts,” said Diane Dugas, Director of EASTCONN’s Leading and Learning group. 

Dugas, who previously led EASTCONN’s Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), was tapped last spring to succeed Scott Nierendorf as Director of Leading and Learning. Nierendorf, who is retiring, will be a consultant through November 1st. 

EASTCONN’s restructured Leading and Learning group has expanded the number of professional learning options for districts in areas like student-centered and social-emotional learning; leadership; competency-based teaching and learning; strategic planning; literacy; STEM; numeracy; and coherent school structures. 

A former superintendent, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, a turn-around principal and special education teacher, Dugas has conducted doctoral research on the ways in which central office supports leadership capacity for transformational change. She holds a Sixth Year certificate and is a graduate of the UConn Executive Leadership Program. Dugas specializes in leadership and talent development, social-emotional learning, student-centered learning and strategic planning. 

Joining Dugas and current Leading and Learning staff developers are three highly regarded, long-time educators: Jim Collin, Ed.D.; Anna Forlenza-Bailey, Ph.D.; and Gary Petersen.

Collin, who co-directs EASTCONN’s Talent Development, has 31 years of experience in the education field, having worked as a technology teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent of curriculum and special services in both urban and suburban public school settings. Collin is trained by International Restorative Practices (IRP) and will focus on supporting school improvement efforts as an expert in social-emotional learning and restorative practices. 

As EASTCONN’s co-director of Talent Development, Forlenza-Bailey is working with districts to support school administrators in leadership coaching, the development of systemic models for interventions and the use of professional learning communities. She also specializes in school building walk-throughs to impact student learning. In her former role as a principal, Forlenza-Bailey’s school earned a CSDE School of Distinction award and a CAS Exemplary School Climate award. She has also been a special education teacher.

Petersen, who holds an 092 certificate, joins EASTCONN as a former staff developer and coach with Columbia University’s Reading and Writing Project. He provides expertise in English Language Arts, instructional leadership, culture and climate, and organizational systems. Petersen has been a curriculum specialist and teacher in both West Hartford and Wethersfield. 

EASTCONN’s current Leading and Learning staff includes education specalists Tiffany Smith (ELA); Esther Soffer-Roberts (Interdistrict Grants, school climate, student leadership); Nancy Celentano (TEAM); Michael Mahoney (TEAM Technology specialist); Carolyn Stearns (After-School Program); and Kevin Segar (After-School Program science); and Faith Grist, the group’s support person. 

To learn more, contact Diane Dugas at ddugas@eastconn.org