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New Principals Take Helm at Six New Haven Schools


Nicole Brown, Hill Central

Nicole Brown, principal of Hill Central Music Academy, brings 24 years of experience as an educator in the New Haven Public Schools. Her teaching roles included grades 2 and 3 at the former Timothy Dwight School and at Bishop Woods School and serving as a K-8 instructional literacy coach at both Bishop Woods and Hill Central School. During her tenure as instructional coach, Brown presented at the International Literacy Association Conference in collaboration with Dr. Nancy Boyles.

     Brown’s leadership experience began as academic leader at Hill Central under a shared leadership model. She had the opportunity to present at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in collaboration with the Connecticut Writing Project’s Dr. Bryan Crandall of Fairfield University and author Kwame Alexander. In 2016, Mrs. Brown was appointed assistant principal at Hill Central School. As principal, she looks forward to maintaining a high-performing school grounded in positive relationships and high academic expectations.


Tessa Gumbs-Johnson, King Robinson

Tessa Gumbs-Johnson, principal of King Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School, formerly served as NHPS supervisor of professional learning.  She has dedicated 24 years to public education in support of students, families and staff.   

     Gumbs-Johnson began her second career as a 4th grade classroom teacher at P.S. 175 Henry Highland Garnet School in Harlem, New York in 1997.  She has worked for NHPS starting in 2007, first as a technology coordinator, then an administrative instructional leader, Title IX co-coordinator designee, and an assistant principal at King/Robinson. Her experience as a high school freshman house principal gave her “fierce urgency” about preparing middle schoolers to transition to high school.

     She believes in supporting all stakeholders through transformative professional engagement. Her pedagogical trajectory has been guided by the principle that everyone must be heard, respected, and valued, even when perspectives differ.

     Gumbs-Johnson is a thought leader who leverages her educational experiences and opportunities to provide support and opportunities for others. She firmly believes in paying it forward.


Stephanie Skiba, Barnard School

Stephanie Skiba, principal of Barnard Environmental Science and Technology School, has a passion for working with students and families to bridge school and home.

     Skiba served as director of operations and then assistant principal of Lincoln Bassett Community School. As an instructional manager, she was responsible for teacher goal-setting, evaluation, and classroom feedback. She collaborated with teachers to develop and maintain curriculum standards. She developed grant budgets and priorities and facilitated school-wide partnerships including family and community engagement events. She also served on the planning team that coordinates summer school programming for the city.

     Previously, Skiba was a middle school mathematics teacher at Barnard. As a middle school lead teacher, she facilitated professional development and data teams and managed scheduling. She holds a master of science in remedial reading and language arts and a certificate in educational administration and supervision from the University of Bridgeport.


Kenneasha Sloley, Conte West Hills

Kenneasha Sloley, principal of Conte West Hills School, has dedicated her career to education for the past 20 years as a general education teacher, science teacher, instructional team leader, LEAD CT resident principal, and principal, as well as consultant on leadership development for aspiring leaders and teachers. She is a graduate of St Joseph’s Teachers College in Jamaica, Central Connecticut State University, and the University of Connecticut. Mrs. Sloley holds a bachelor of science degree in education with a major in special studies, a master of science degree in educational leadership, a sixth-year certificate, and a superintendent certification. 

     Sloley is adept in collaboration, program assessments, capacity building of staff and school community. She excels in curriculum and instruction, evaluation, equity and inclusion, data review and relationship building. She strives to create an environment where teachers and staff want to work, students want to attend, parents want to send their children, and the community wants to invest.

     Sloley’s love for students runs deep and her passion for transforming and empowering their lives is unwavering. She is committed to sustaining a school community of excellence that promotes high quality instruction for all students. As she always says, “Every student matters. Every moment counts.”


Mark Sweeting, Hillhouse

Mark Sweeting, principal at James Hillhouse High School, served as assistant principal at Beecher Museum School, Engineering and Science University Magnet School, and Wilbur Cross High School. Among his accomplishments, he established tutoring programs at both Beecher and ESUMS; at the latter, he also created a program in which high school students mentored middle school students. At Wilbur Cross, he led a small learning community of 330 students and headed the history and fine arts departments. Sweeting also served as principal in residence at Truman Middle School.

     Sweeting, who is at work on his PhD dissertation at Concordia University Chicago, holds a master’s in secondary education from Mercy College. He began his career as a social studies teacher at Dunbar Academy in the South Bronx. He later served in leadership roles at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies and Performance Conservatory High School in the Bronx.


John Tarka, Wilbur Cross

John Tarka, principal of Wilbur Cross High School, prides himself on building strong learning communities through teacher mentoring and evaluation and enhancing school climate and culture. As principal of ACES Whitney Academy, he worked to develop communication and shared leadership structures during COVID. He surveyed teachers, staff, and students to better understand the challenges the school was facing and to develop a leadership team to address them. He also worked to improve communication to teachers in the classroom and created a data collection system to inform goal-setting. He added climate and culture events, from fundraisers for Special Olympics to the school’s first-ever field day.

     As assistant principal at Hillhouse High School, Tarka implemented professional learning communities to enhance teacher effectiveness through such activities as co-planning lessons and reviewing student work. The communities established a common instructional focus on reading comprehension, which yielded an increase in students’ reading scores. As instructional manager of the English Language Arts department, Tarka added honors level classes and created the district’s first pre-advanced placement program.

     Tarka previously served as critical thinking teacher and later administrator of the high school credit team at the Adult Education Center. He also taught English and history at New Horizons Alternative High School. He holds a master’s from the Graduate Institute and an educational leadership certificate from Sacred Heart University.