For eight years, Jen Alexander has served as a guiding light for me and countless others through her tireless leadership taking on the big education issues of the day. Yesterday, she shared the news that this year will be her last at the helm of ConnCAN. While we still have some time left before having to say a formal goodbye, I thought it would be fitting to share a few moments from her many years leading the way forward.

Ideas have always been at the center of Jen’s work as an advocate. It’s fitting then that she first joined ConnCAN as the leader of our policy and research work, bringing new depth to our efforts. She pioneered projects like our Teacher & Administrator Contract Database, which is now visited more than 20,000 times a year, and the Field Guide to Education in Connecticut, which has reached more than 10,000 readers across the state. Her report “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness” won the PIE Network research report of the year and paved the way for the policy reforms that followed.

In 2012, Jen stepped into the role of CEO, bringing new energy and a new direction to our work:

  • Launching local advocacy and leadership development programs, like School Board Watch and ConnCAN’s Community Leadership Academy, to support the growth of advocates to become leaders and run for elected office.
  • Forging some of the most unique coalitions in the country, including the Big 6 (composed of superintendents, school boards, principals, business and civic leaders and advocates) that worked together to shape policy, pass major reform legislation and defend progress.
  • Delivering over 200 pieces of testimony in legislative hearings at the state Capitol and publishing nearly 70 research papers or policy briefs to inform and shape policy improvement.
  • Partnering with advocacy groups to spearhead the largest education rally ever in Connecticut, with over 6,000 people on the New Haven Green.

Most importantly, Jen got results for kids, passing 35 policies to improve education opportunities. Big changes secured under Jen’s watch include:

  • The adoption and protection of college and career ready standards and aligned assessments at a time when states across the country were rolling back progress on this front.
  • Alternate certification pathways to help make sure more students have high-quality educators.
  • New legislation to help Connecticut recruit more teachers and leaders of color.
  • A 50 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in public charter schools and a 60 percent increase in annual state funding for public charter schools.

On behalf of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, thank you Jen for everything you have done for the children of Connecticut. You have changed our state for the better and set an amazing example for the advocates to come.

Derrick Diggs is the chair of ConnCAN’s board of directors.

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