Leaders make the difference



Leaders make the difference


Founded in 1998, the National Principals Leadership Institute is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) dedicated to leadership development and school transformation. It has conducted 19 internationally acclaimed Summer Institutes, affecting more than 3,500 educational leaders (and 3.5 million students) from across the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

SICA, the School Innovation and Change Awards (formerly called the National School Change Awards), recognizes schools that have dramatically improved. These awardees become "models of success" and sites for research and training. They convey a clear message, "Your school can do this, too."

View a history of NPLI, our themes and presenters through the years.


NPLI is highly acclaimed for its six-day Summer Institute which is described as inspirational and transformational. The Institutes provide a focus on "big picture" issues such as measuring success, equity, obstacles to change, and defining the purpose of school. Typically, time is infrequently set aside to reflect, debate and discuss why we are doing what we are doing. At the same time, principals formulate practical strategies to take home.

The second unique program is the NPLI School Innovation and Change Awards (SICA), which uses 16 specific criteria to recognize schools that have embraced innovation, dramatically improved and addressed sustainability.

NPLI and its two internationally recognized program strands have been conducted for 20 years.


The American dream is built on the idea that this nation provides limitless opportunities to be successful. America is the place where "it is always morning." Here, education is the equalizer. However, that concept is built on the huge assumption that schools are doing the job that needs to be done. Many, perhaps most, are not. Moreover, schools will not become beacons of hope and bridges to success without effective leadership. Because leaders "make the difference" NPLI has assumed the mandate of developing & supporting change leader.





Dr. Lew Smith is the Founder and Director of the National Principals Leadership Institute and the National School Change Awards. He served as a New York City High School Principal, Executive of a multi-social service agency, and Associate Professor and Associate Dean at Fordham University's Graduate School of Education. Lew has worked with school districts across North America. His book Schools that Change: Evidence-based Improvement and Effective Change Leadership provides portraits of eight schools that dramatically improved.




Dr. Jann Coles, a Leadership Development Consultant and Change Facilitator for education, business and non-profit organizations. She is a Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer for the National Principals Leadership Institute. Jann was on the national team of New Leaders for New Schools and served as the Superintendent of all New York City Adult Education programs, reaching 40,000 clients.




Esther Elkouss, Operations Manager and Registrar for the National Principals Leadership Institute, and Program Manager for the School Innovation and Change Awards. Esther oversees the daily administrative tasks including program direction, marketing, event planning, and communications. Prior to her promotion to Operations Manager, she served as the Marketing Manager. Esther holds an MBA in Marketing and speaks English, Spanish and French.

Serving on the NPLI board are:

  • Georges Berges, Art Gallery owner
  • Duane Brothers, Superintendent, Louis Riel School Division, Manitoba, Canada
  • Jann Coles, Chief Program Officer, NPLI
  • Sam Cooperman, CEO of New York Cruise Lines, Inc.
  • Romules Durant, Superintendent of Toledo Public Schools
  • Aaron Graham, Chair Emeritus


  • Michele Hancock, Consultant School Change
  • Margaret Harrington, Former NYC Supt. & CEO, Victory Schools, Chair NPLI Board
  • Thomas Howard, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Harbor
  • Consuelo Kickbusch, CEO, Education Achievement Services
  • Robin Shahani, Managing Director, TD Ameritrade


  • Lew Smith, Founder & CEO NPLI
  • Michael Specht, Partner in the Tax and Audit and Accounting Departments of Prager Metis CPAs, LLC
  • Fred Stokley, Former Supt. LA, MA, NJ, Chair Emeritus
  • Peter Temes, Founder & President, Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations





our history of Institute themes and presenters:

NPLI 1998 - Looking at the Standards Dilemma: Tony Alvarado, Roland Barth, Jacqueline Grennon Brooks, Martin Brooks, Beverly Hall, Erik Halleus, Phil Hallinger, Frances Hesselbein, Judith Johnson, Frank Macchiarola, John R. McKernan, Lorraine Monroe, Ted Sizer, John Tobin, Lester Young.

NPLI 1999 - Designing 21st Century Schools: Anthony Amato, Cozette Buckney, Ben Canada, Gene Carter, James P. Comer, Daniel Duke, Sy Fliegel, Michele Foster, Dale Frederick, Michael Fullan, Vicki Hancock, Frances Hesselbein, Andre Hornsby, Sara Lawrence-Lighfoot, Frank Macchiarola, Kent McGuire, Alan November, Pedro Reyes, Robert Sternberg, John Tobin.

NPLI 2000 - Facilitating Change in 21st Century Schools: Mary Butz, Gene Carter, Michael Feller, Michael Fullan, Lani Guinier, Howard Gardner, Pat Harvey, Michele Hunt, Spencer Johnson, Ed Joyner, Hank Levin, Gene Maeroff, Lorraine Monroe, Joseph Murphy, Charlotte Roberts.

NPLI 2001 - Leading School ImprovementAnthony Amato, Roland Barth, Gaston Caperton, Gordon Davis, Terry Deal, Gerry House, Carol Johnson, Diana Lam, Lorraine Monroe, Peter Negroni, Pedro Noguera, Rod Paige, Lillian Barrios Paoli, Tom Payzant, Hugh Price, Diane Ravitch, Lauren Resnick, Carmen Russo, Rosa Smith.

NPLI 2002 - Defining the Purpose of School: Arlene Ackerman, Gene Carter, Cile Chavez, Jocelyn Elders, Carol Enseki, Charlotte Frank, Tony Jackson, Peter Jovanovich, Jonathan Kozol, Fredrick Hill, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Joseph Olchefske, Pedro Noguera, Rev. Joseph O’Hare, Wendy Puriefoy, Eric Smith, Peter Yarrow, Irma Zardoya.

NPLI 2003 - Developing Leaders for America’s Schools: Arlene Ackerman, Stacy Allison, Bill Andrekopoulos, Donna Brazile, Carlos Garcia, Arun Gandhi, Beverly Hall, Frances Hesselbein, Paul Houston, Joel Klein, Consuelo Kickbusch, James Kouzes, Joan Raymond, John Scott Reid, Rev. Eugene Rivers, Carmen Russo, Eric Smith, Paul Vallas.

NPLI 2004 - Empowering Leaders to Measure Success: Stacy Allison, Mary Barter, Adeline Becker, Gene Carter, Rudy Crew, Jesus Gandara, David Gee, James Hager, Pat Harvey, Paul Houston, Consuelo Kickbusch, Larry Leverett, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, William Ouchi, Doug Reeves, Marjorie Scardino, Rosa Smith, Jim Stigler, Susan Taylor, Laval Wilson, Bethany Yarrow.

NPLI 2005 - Creating Great Schools: Arlene Ackerman, Gayle Andrews, Rudy Crew, Laura A. Fogle, Susan Frost, Michael Fullan, Howard Gardner, Paul George, Paul Houston, Melody Johnson, Donald Kussmaul, James Lawson, John Mackiel, Deborah Meier, Bob Moses, Peter Negroni, Pedro Noguera, Abelardo Saavedra, Elisa Sanchez, Helen Santiago, Priscilla Shumway, Tom VanderArk, Erik Wahl, Earl Watkins.

NPLI 2006 - Building Teams to Make a Difference: Stacy Allison, Joel Barker, Donna Brazile, Leslie Carpenter, Larry Dieringer, Richard DiPatrie, Charlotte Frank, Arun Gandhi, Paul George, Lani Guinier, Michele Hancock, Paul Houston, Consuelo Kickbusch, Linda Lantieri, Carlos Lucero, Manny Medrano, Hector Montenegro, David Neeleman, Peter Negroni, Ruthie Smith Stevenson, Paul Vallas, Jim Vetter, Peter Yarrow.

NPLI 2007 - Leading and Sustaining School Change: Richard Babacane, Richard Flanary, Michael Fullan, Paul George, Rick Herrig, Edward Joyner, Consuelo Kickbusch, James Lawson, Peter J. Negroni, Pedro Noguera, Richard Parsons, Douglas Reeves, Manuel Rivera, Ray Simon, Nancy Sizer, Ted Sizer, Rosa A. Smith, Susan L. Taylor, Tony Wagner, Peter Yarrow.

NPLI 2008 - Re-Imagining Schools: Arlene Ackerman, Paula Boggs, Scott Noppe-Brandon, Cozette Buckney, Ciara Burnham, Rudolph F. Crew, Juan Fonseca, Marsha Gartland, Michael J. Gelb, Wycliffe Gordon Quarte, Marilyn M. Joseph, Consuelo Kickbusch, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Art Kleiner, Reynold Levy, Marcia Lyles, Tod Machover, Charlotte K. Frank, Peter Senge, Raymond Simon, Pedro Noguera, John Rowe, Carmen Valera Russo, Raymond Simon, Deborah Sims, Lew Smith, Margaret Wheatley.

NPLI 2009 - Achieving Equity & Excellence: Arlene Ackerman, David Banks, Rev. Luis Barrios, Jonathan Beane, Donna Brazile, Duane Brothers, Eliza Byard, Celia Domenech, Arne Duncan, Ronald F. Ferguson, Juan Fonseca, Charlotte Frank, Bill T. Jones, Khary Lazarre-White, Marilyn M. Joseph, Consuelo Kickbusch, Larry Leverett, Jonathan Kozol, Rev. James Lawson, Dhyan Lal, Marsha Lyles, Peter Negroni, Sonia Nieto, Ruby Payne, Michael Rebell, Lew Smith, Gina Stanley, Gregory H. Williams, Peter Yarro.

NPLI 2010 - Exercising Leadership for Our Times: Arlene Ackerman, Allison Chin, Maya Enista, Sy Fliegel, Charlotte Frank, Susan Fuhrman, Peg Harrington, Consuelo Kickbusch, Larry Leverett, Peter Negroni, Pedro Noguera, Scott Noppe-Brandon, Michael Nutter, Soledad O'Brien, Robert Safian, James Shelton, Theo Spencer, David Warlick, Cornel West.

NPLI 2011 - Re-Examining the Purpose of School: Stacy Allison, Milton Chen, Gene Carter, Ginny Edwards, Avis Glaze, Gerry House, Manny Rivera, Pedro Noguera, Dan Domenech, Michele Hancock, Scott Noppe-Brandon, Dennis Walcott, Doug Reeves, Charlotte Frank, David Levin, Femi Kirby, Jon Schnur, James Stovall, Roy Juarez, Consuelo Kickbusch, Carl Harris.

NPLI 2012 - Understanding the Leadership We Need: Erik Wahl, Susan Elliott, Alisdair McGregor, Jake Neuberg, James Lawson, Kent Keith, Consuelo Kickbusch, Kevin Sheridan, Roberta Reardon, Lisa Coico, Jean-Claude Brizard, Stedman Graham, Charlotte Frank, Jim Shelton, Cornel West, Paula Kinney, Frances Hesselbein, Pedro Noguera, Steve Forbes, Rudy Crew, Ginny Edwards, Eva Moskowitz, Irma Zardoya.

NPLI 2013 - Overcoming Obstacles to Change: Peter Senge, Michael Hinojosa, Greg Thornton, De'Shawn Wright, Michael Fullan, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, John Deasy, Dennis Walcott, Stan Litow, Consuelo Kickbusch, Ed Reilly, Laurel Richie, Paul Owen, Alan Blankstein, Rudy Crew.

NPLI 2014 - Challenging the Way We Measure Success: Consuelo Kickbusch, Frank Sanchez, Duane Brothers, Tami Gaines, Stedman Graham, Colonel Paul Owen, Hill Harper, Lisa Hansel, Dallas Dance, Susan Asiyanbi, Lindsey Burke, Bob Schaeffer, Sandra Stotsky, Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Susan Fuhrman, Maryanne Schretzman, Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Merryl Tisch.

NPLI 2015 - Designing Schools for the Future: Alfred Spector, John Mahaffie, Farah Assir, Chris Bruce, Rob Mascarelli, Alina Morse, Gene Bottoms, Dan Domenech, William Hite, Jake Barton, Lisa Bodell, Ayman El-Mohandes, Glen Gilmore, Robert Henson, Norman Atkins, Timothy Jenkins, Renee Patton, Tom Stritikus, Peter Temes, David Roberts, Monica Martinez, Nancy Nager, Satya Nitta, Phoebe Boyer, Rashid Davis, Jeff Wetzler, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Frank Sanchez, Ras Baraka, Low Ee Ling, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Marv Adams, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Thomas Howard, Caleb Harper.

NPLI 2016 - Describing and Delivering the Leadership We Need: Lisa Bodell, John Cimino, Michael Fullan, Annette Gordon-Reed, Stedman Graham, Thomas Howard, Consuelo Kickbusch, Larry Leverett, Delano Lewis, Bryan Llenas, Karen Morris, Rob Nelson, William Rapp, Jon Schnur, Maya Enista Smith, Teresa Weatherspoon, Rob Weinert-Kendt, Hendrie Weisinger.