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Urban Education Leaders Program
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

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Dr. Brian K. Perkins is the Director of the Urban Education Leadership Program at Columbia University Teachers College Department of Organization and Leadership. In the past two years, Dr. Perkins has reorganized the UELP under a dynamic new conceptual framework. He also directs the Superintendent’s Work Conference (started in 1941) at Teachers College. He is the former Chair and Professor of Education Law and Policy at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. As Chair, Dr. Perkins successfully led his department through the licensure of the university’s first doctoral program and full NCATE accreditation. Dr. Perkins is a distinguished Yale alumnus and was named a Timothy Dwight Fellow in 2004. He was a member of the research faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Perkins was an instructor in the Yale University Department of Chemistry and was awarded the distinguished teaching award for instruction in Inorganic Chemistry Problems. He has served as a consultant to school districts throughout the U.S., Brazil, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa. Dr. Perkins is a visiting professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Dr. Perkins is the host of his own Internet radio show, The Perkins Platform, which is a monthly forum on education leadership topics with thousands of listeners.

Dr. Perkins was the President of the New Haven (CT) Board of Education where he served for 11 years. He also served for four years on the Board of Directors of the National School Boards Association. Dr. Perkins served two terms as national chair for CUBE: Council of Urban Boards of Education and was the chair for the National Black Caucus of School Board Members. He was also the national chair of the Leadership for Healthy Communities initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Perkins is the author of several published articles and book chapters and serves as the principal investigator and author of Where We Learn (2006), Where We Teach (2007) and What We Think (2008) – the largest studies on urban school climate in the history of public education. HE is leading a ground-breaking study and improvement initiative of school climate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His forthcoming manuscript, Improving School Climate from the Inside Out, is under review and is scheduled for release next year. Dr. Perkins travels extensively in sub-Saharan Africa and leads annual delegations of educators to the region. He is leading an effort to provide clothing and funding to the Tholakele Orphanage in the Republic of South Africa where he currently serves as an advisor. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and a member of the Sigma Pi Phi Boulé.

Dr. Perkins received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from Grambling State University, a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the Yale University School of Medicine and his Doctor of Education Degree from Columbia University Teachers College. He has a graduate certificate in executive coaching from the Columbia Business School.  Dr. Perkins is a registered provider of continuing education for school board members by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and a nationally certified principal mentor by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Dr. Eleanor Drago-Severson is an Associate Professor of Education in the Organization and Leadership Department of Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research and teaching passions include school leadership, qualitative research methods, and supporting adult development in K-12 schools, ABE/ESOL programs and higher education contexts. Ellie is the author of: Becoming Adult Learners: Principles And Practices For Effective Development (Teachers College Press, 2004) and Helping Teachers Learn: Principal Leadership For Adult Growth And Development (Corwin Press, 2004). Helping Teachers Learn was awarded the Outstanding Staff Development Book of the Year for 2004 by the National Staff Development Council. She is also the author of Leading Adult Learning: Supporting Adult Development in our Schools (Corwin Press, 2009), which further explores practices supportive of superintendent, principal and teacher growth.
A developmental psychologist, Dr. Drago-Severson's work is inspired by the idea that schools must be places where adults as well as children can grow. She served as lead researcher on the Adult Development Team of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) with Robert Kegan at Harvard University and consults with schools and educational leaders on matters of principal and teachers' professional development, and leadership that supports adult development and learning. Ellie has and does serve as teacher, program designer, program director, consultant, and professional developer in a variety of educational contexts including higher education, Adult Education Community Centers, and K-12 schools domestically and internationally. 
Ellie conducts research into and teaches courses and workshops on leadership for adult development, adult learning, and qualitative research methods. She is known widely for her work, publications and teaching in these domains.  Ellie's work has been recognized by and supported with awards from the Spencer Foundation, the Klingenstein Foundation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education where Ellie served as Lecturer on Education for many years, and also Harvard University's Extension School where Ellie served as a faculty member.  While serving at Harvard University, Dr. Drago-Severson was awarded the prestigious 2005 Morningstar Award for Excellence in Teaching, an annual prize made to the teacher at the Graduate School of Education voted outstanding by students, faculty and administration. At Teachers College, she has been awarded three distinguished teaching awards from the Dean. Ellie has earned degrees from Long Island University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She grew up in the Bronx and lives in New York City with her husband, David.

Dr. Drago-Severson can be reached via email at, or by telephone at 212-678-4163.

Mr. Eric Nadelstern was the Deputy Chancellor for the Division of School Support and Instruction for the New York City department of education from 2009-11, overseeing instructional and operational support to the city's 1700 schools. Over the course of a 39 year career with the New York City Public Schools, Mr. Nadelstern has also served as Chief Schools Officer for the Division of School Support; Chief Executive Officer for Empowerment Schools, a citywide district reform initiative serving 500 schools that have accepted performance contracting in return for major decision-making authority; Supervising Superintendent for the Autonomy Zone; Chief Academic Officer for New Schools; Senior Instructional Superintendent for School Improvement and Restructuring; Deputy Regional Superintendent for Region 2 in the East Bronx; and Deputy Superintendent for New and Small Bronx High Schools. As the founding Principal of the International High School at LaGuardia Community College, he created an innovative public secondary school for English Language Learners that has been widely replicated throughout the city and around the country. During his tenure with the New York City Schools, Mr. Nadelstern served in institute leadership roles at New Visions for Public Schools, Stanford University, Teachers College at Columbia University and Bank Street College of Education.

Mr. Nadelstern has been recognized for his contributions in the classroom by the New York City Schools, Angelo Patri School Award for School-Based Management, the Anti-Defamation League, and the International Partnership Award. Mr. Nadelstern has been the author and the subject of numerous articles and interviews on his work creating a critical mass of new small schools to increase student performance, establishing school-based autonomy as a school district reform strategy to foster greater accountability for student achievement results, and reforming central office operations in the largest school district in the nation.

Mr. Nadelstern can be reached at  or 212-531-5207.

Dr. Alex J. Bowers is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Michigan State University. His research focuses on the intersection of effective school and district leadership, data driven decision making, student grades and test scores, student persistence and dropouts. His work also considers the influence of school finance and facilities on student achievement. Dr. Bowers is the recipient of multiple awards, including the 2012 American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Emerging Scholar Award for Division A, Administration, the 2012 University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) Jack A. Culbertson Award for outstanding early faculty research, and a 2008 AERA outstanding reviewer of the year award for the American Educational Research Journal (AERJ). Dr. Bowers is an editorial board member for the journals Educational Administration Quarterly (EAQ) and the Journal of Education Finance (JEF).

Dr. Bowers' research examines how school leaders are able to leverage and use the data that they already collect in schools to help drive decisions on how to allocate limited school and district resources to specific student needs. These types of data include non-cumulative teacher assigned grades as data that are rarely examined for the ability to predict student outcomes. In related work, Dr. Bowers' research explores how current data mining techniques can help school leaders organize and analyze their school's data to help determine which students need what kinds of interventions at specific points in time and curricular subjects in an effort to help schools provide tailor instruction and services to students and families.

Bowers also studies school and district leadership, examining which leadership factors influence student achievement at the school and district levels. This includes research on district effectiveness, school finance and school facilities. Additionally, Bowers studies how school districts can be effective and efficient, as well as studying which factors help predict school capital facility finance bond elections

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