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