Tributes to Gail

A Retrospective of Gail Connelly’s Decade as NAESP Executive Director

Tributes to Gail Connelly

After 10 years of leading NAESP, Gail Connelly is retiring from her role as executive director.
Here are some tributes from the field.

Share your thoughts and wishes for Gail here.

Mary Kay Sommers, Ed.D.
NAESP Past President, World Education Forum, Secretary/Treasurer

Gail’s vision of a collaborative leadership model was an emerging idea, especially at the national organizational level, when we hired her as executive director. As NAESP president at the time, Gail and I chatted almost daily so she could bring such a model to our leadership, and along the way we developed an enduring personal friendship. She has been willing to ask the tough questions, and has been relentless as a voice for the profession through ever-present challenges. As a result, our organization continues to evolve in new directions that will help to create a “preferred future” for NAESP, principals, children, and education.

Alan Michelson
NAESP Past President, 2006-2007

Gail may not have been expecting the question I asked her over dinner in Alexandria, that night in 2006. I had known her since 2002 when as a key staffer, she helped mentor me through my rookie days as an NAESP board member. Now I was in the middle of my term as NAESP president and we were losing our executive director. I always remember bolstering my request that she consider the position by saying, “Your Association needs you.” She stepped up with energy and purpose, and the rest is history.

Russell Quaglia, Ed.D.
Chief Executive, Quaglia Institute for School Voice & Aspirations

I go to so many meetings and frankly dread them—but a meeting with Gail is completely different.

Kelvin W. Miller
Corporate Vice President Lifetouch Photography

While Gail and I met on a professional basis, as with Gail, everything becomes a cherished personal relationship. Annually, Gail meets for a social gathering with my colleagues from Lifetouch. As always, her warm, engaging personality touches the hearts of all.

W. Diane Cargile, Ed.D
Principal Consultant AAA Excellent Global Education Inc.

Gail is someone you can always count on to make you smile! Gail is such a great communicator! She listens to you and regardless of the situation Gail can help you see a brighter tomorrow. Gail knows that Beyoncé is my favorite singer. So like Beyoncé, Gail makes "Lemonade" out of any situation.

Bill O'Dowd
CEO, Dolphin Entertainment

Gail Connelly is undoubtedly one of the "best people" I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is passionate (oh boy, is she passionate)! She is smart! She is determined! She is (more than) capable! She is gracious! She is humble! But, above all, she is KIND! And, given all of her success, I can think of no higher compliment. Gail Connolly is just flat-out awesome, and I'm very, very lucky to call her my friend.

Rich Barbacane
Educational Consultant

Gail is someone you can always count on to do what is best for students, families and principals.

Pierre A Lehmuller
Executive Director, NYC Elementary School Principals Assn.

First met Gail the summer of 1989, when as the then new president of NYCESOA. Gail developed a strong relationship with my wife, Elfriede. It seemed, at times, that I was the outsider. "Hey, you two! What are you plotting now?"

Keith D. Miller
Director, Office of Overseas Schools U.S. Department of State

I met Gail 25 years ago at a meeting of the Board of Directors of NAESP. Gail is someone you can always count on to work closely together with to enhance the education of children around the world.

Mark Terry
Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors (TEPSA) Deputy Executive Director

I met Gail when I was a member of TEPSA attending the annual conference. She was as welcoming and kind to me then as she is now. As I moved through leadership at TEPSA and then through NAESP, Gail's friendship and guidance has never waned and is as appreciated now as ever.

Steven D. Geis, Ed.D.
NAESP President, Principal at North Trail Elementary, Farmington, MN

Gail’s charismatic personality made me feel like a long-lost friend the very first time we met. I was attending my first NAESP annual conference, and she inspired me to learn more about NAESP. I can attest to her energy in leaving no stone unturned to ensure clarity and transparency in all her dealings. As NAESP president, my travels take me across the country. And wherever I go, I see how highly regarded, valued, and appreciated she is, and the stellar reputation she has built. So along with my own, I bring her the well wishes of every state I have visited.

Deborah B. Reeve, Ed.D.
Executive Director and CEO, National Art Education Association

Gail has given me a gift of friendship and collegiality that has continued for almost 30 years.

Deborah S. Delisle
CEO and Executive Director, ASCD, former U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education

So often we look upon leaders as people who develop rules and policies, but Gail is a leader’s leader.

Dan Domenech, Ph.D.
Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

Our associations have cooperated on many activities, and Gail has become a loyal and supportive friend who will be missed.

Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.
NAESP Associate Executive Director, Communications

Gail is a champion for developing women leaders, urging me personally to “know my worth” and to talk about my accomplishments.

Ernie Mannino, H.Ed.
Deputy Executive Director, CEO, NAESP Foundation

Without fail, when faced with a challenging situation Gail is determined to find a win-win solution.

Joann Bartoletti
Executive Director, National Association of Secondary School Principals

I met Gail when I became executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association 25 years ago, and we have been professional colleagues and friends ever since.

L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE
Executive Director, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, and incoming NAESP Executive Director

Gail Connelly established an extremely high bar of leadership during her tenure as NAESP executive director; she exemplifies a servant’s heart and sincere passion for the organization and its mission. I sincerely thank her for her service and leadership.

Kelly Pollitt
NAESP Chief Strategist, Policy & Alliances

Gail is leaving an amazing legacy by leading NAESP’s agenda to help principals address the aspects of student education that matter most to them, and reconnect with their passion.