After decades of experience in educational leadership and supporting students with special needs across Connecticut, Eric Protulis returned to EASTCONN in July 2022, when he was appointed as Executive Director. Eric previously served as the Director of Pupil Services for Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) in Hamden, CT. At EASTCONN, Eric worked in several leadership roles, including Director of Special Services, Assistant Director of Special Services and Program Director of EASTCONN’s Educational and Vocational Center (EVC). He additionally served as Director of Special Education and Pupil Services and School Psychologist at Regional School District #8 in Hebron, CT and was a School Psychologist/Counselor in Plainville, CT. Eric holds a Specialist Designation, an M.S. and a B.A. from the University of Hartford, and is certified in both Educational Leadership and School Psychology. He also has his Superintendent of Schools endorsement. In his return to EASTCONN, Eric brings a desire to advocate for the needs of the districts in the EASTCONN region and to ensure the agency is poised to support learners of all ages.
Director of Facilities
Shawn Brodeur became EASTCONN’s Facilities Director in July 2021, overseeing the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the agency’s 15 program, school, and administrative sites, all located across EASTCONN’s 33-town, 36-school district region in northeastern Connecticut. As a certified Asbestos Operations and Maintenance Manager, Shawn keeps all of EASTCONN’s schools and buildings in compliance with state environmental and health laws. He provides Facilities Auditing Services for school districts that lack the on-staff expertise to determine their long-range facility needs. Prior to joining EASTCONN, Shawn worked as the Facilities Director for a private boarding school in eastern Connecticut overseeing a multitude of capital projects and expansion.
With more than a decade of school transportation management experience in partnership with Connecticut public schools, Kimberly knows how to provide safe, high-quality, cost-effective bus service for students and communities in the Nutmeg State. She brings a deep understanding of Connecticut’s rigorous laws and driver-credentialing requirements to her job as EASTCONN’s Director of Transportation, where she has quickly applied her background in creating transportation-route efficiencies for the school districts that EASTCONN serves. Before joining EASTCONN in 2017, Kimberly excelled as Operations and Charter Manager for Specialty Transportation in Hartford/Avon, where she oversaw the dispatch, payroll and HR needs of 100+ drivers/buses in Hartford, in addition to 40+ in Avon. As Charter Manager for Specialty, she also supervised daily charter buses for the City of Hartford and 2 surrounding towns and oversaw all aspects of transportation for corporate and social events, as well as school activities. Prior to her work at Specialty, Kimberly was Operations Manager with Dattco in Avon, where she managed daily transportation operations and acted as communications liaison with both school administrators and parents. Kimberly also has experience in the early childhood field; she was the Assistant Director of a private preschool-kindergarten program in Avon and Windsor, Conn., where she worked as the head teacher in a full-day kindergarten classroom.
Eastern Connecticut Health Insurance Program (ECHIP) Coordinator
In 2012, Larisa became the Administrator for the Eastern Connecticut Health Insurance Program (ECHIP), Connecticut’s first health insurance collaborative. Housed at EASTCONN, the ECHIP collaborative allows her to incorporate all of her previous experience in the health insurance market and continue the professional work she has always enjoyed. A life and health insurance broker licensed in the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, Larisa had previously worked in the private sector as a sales executive and a broker. Her early career saw her specialize in property and casualty at Allstate Insurance, where she worked as an assistant for their legal team. Larisa then moved into health insurance at ConnectiCare Inc., where she was a sales assistant for 3 years before being promoted to Junior Sales Executive there. She became a senior sales executive and worked at ConnectiCare for another 8 years. Larisa left ConnectiCare to open her own independent brokerage agency, specializing in small group health insurance. After successfully growing her agency, she merged with a larger firm and sold the business in 2010, after being recruited by United Health Care. She joined UHC as a regional sales executive, representing them in new business sales and account management retention. She managed a national book of business, traveling to clients in Texas, Minnesota and California, as well as a regional book of business with clients in New York and Connecticut. Larisa attended Quinnipiac University and Wesleyan University and is a veteran of the United States Army. Learn more about ECHIP at www.echip-ct.org.
Technology Solutions Director/CTO
Andy is a career-long educator, researcher, and technologist with 24 years of experience. He started at the University of Connecticut as a consultant in the Office Instructional and Research Services, and after the completion of his doctorate took a faculty position at the UCONN College of Continuing Studies with a dual appointment at the Neag School of Education and an administrative appointment as Director of Technology. Soon afterward he took leadership of Information Science and Knowledge Management, supervising faculty and curriculum development. During this time, he served as secretary of the University Senate Courses and Curricula Committee and served in various regional and national leadership positions in UPCEA. His research agenda at this time included distance education and learning environment development with contexts in fine arts, nutritional science, and history. Immediately prior to his departure from UCONN, he received the President’s Research Award. Andy came to EASTCONN is 2014, with the initial task of assembling and organizing the then newly-formed Technology Solutions Division. He brought a broad knowledge of technology, technology education, and education practice and theory, and built a flexible and responsive unit. As division director, he oversees research and data services, information technology, application development, and network operations. He is a member of both EASTCONN’s Leadership Team and Research and Development group. His areas of direct service are consulting on school climate, automated analysis and reporting, data mining, classroom robotics, and application development for research. Andy holds a Ph.D. in Education and B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
Director of K-12 and Leading & Learning
Diane Dugas directs EASTCONN’s Leading and Learning division, as well as the agency’s two magnet high schools and its alternative high school. Formerly the director of EASTCONN’s Center for Educational Leadership, which she now also oversees, Diane was previously a superintendent of schools, an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, a turn-around principal and a special education teacher. A lifelong educator, Diane has conducted doctoral research on the ways in which central office supports leadership capacity for transformational change. She holds a Sixth Year certificate and is a graduate of the UConn Executive Leadership Program. Diane specializes in leadership and talent development; social-emotional learning; competency-based, student-centered learning; and strategic planning. She also facilitates EASTCONN’s Regional Staff Development Council. To learn more about EASTCONN’s Leading and Learning virtual professional development opportunities, as well as embedded district professional learning or team facilitation across a range of K-12 academic fields and pedagogies, contact Diane at her email listed above.
Early Childhood Initiatives Director
Diane Gozemba, MS Ed., MBA became the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at EASTCONN in 2015. She previously served as the Director of EASTCONN’s Early Head Start and Head Start program, chaired the Department of Education at Mitchell College, directed a lab school and developed a Family Center at Brooklyn Friends Schools, working as administrator in both urban and rural areas. Diane has a Masters’ Degree from Bank Street College of Education. Her professional content expertise includes Building Cultural Competencies, Early Childhood Program Administration and the use of the coaching process as a means to improve instruction. Diane presents nationally and at statewide conferences. Currently she is supporting several components of the Quality Improvement Grant awarded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. Diane is a leader in providing professional learning, coaching in districts, community programs and statewide support of the early childhood workforce.
Adult & Community Programs Director
An educator for 25 years, Kristin Hempel has been a passionate adult education administrator and advocate in CT for the past 9 years. Previously, she was an elementary principal in NY, a teacher and high school administrator in RI, and an administrator and curriculum designer for a virtual school. She graduated from Swarthmore College, received her MA in Educational Psychology from Vermont College, and completed her principal residency program at Northeastern University in Boston. Her mission has been to support and inspire students to be lifelong learners and engaged, inquisitive, and compassionate citizens. She found her “sweet spot” in the world of Adult Education, where helping individual students achieve their goals will change the future of their entire families and our communities. An active executive board member of the Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education (CAACE), Kristin has chaired the Professional Development Task Force for eight years and represented CAACE at COABE’s Capitol Hill Days and National Skills Coalition’s Skills Summit. Nationally, Kristin is a CT representative to the New England Literacy Resource Center (NELRC) Advisory Board and is an elected member of the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) board representing ME/NH/VT/RI/MA/CT/NY/NJ/PA (Region 1) where she also chairs the Students As Leaders Task Force.
Human Resources Director
Melanie Marcaccio, Director of EASTCONN’s Human Resources Department, has more than 38 years of experience in the Human Resources/Labor Relations field, having held executive-level governmental positions in Rhode Island, where her service encompassed all aspects of Human Resources management for up to 14,000 employees. Her broad experience includes managing the quality and delivery of human resources functions and services provided to customers on all matters involved in performance management, strategic planning, talent acquisition, equal opportunity and diversity, merit selection, classification/compensation, payroll administration, benefits coordination, labor relations/collective bargaining, disability management (including workers’ compensation) and training, using outstanding interpersonal, communication, negotiation, mediation and people management skills. Prior to joining EASTCONN’s team in 2017, Melanie served most recently as the Acting Executive Director of Human Resources/Personnel Administrator and as Deputy Personnel Administrator with the State of Rhode Island. Melanie has demonstrated expertise in establishing and managing transitions to and implementation of defined strategic directions and objectives, including the development of policies, procedures and systems development and implementation. Melanie earned her bachelor of science degree from the University of Rhode Island and attended Providence College’s Masters in Business Administration – Personnel Administration and Labor Relations program. She is a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Effective Speaking and Human Relations training program, Leadership RI, and Incident Command System Training for Emergency Response.
Director of Pupil Services
Prior to being appointed Director of Pupil services at EASTCONN, Amy had served as Assistant Director. She originally joined EASTCONN in April of 2013 as Program Director for one of the agency’s two K-12 Clinical Day Treatment Programs. Before choosing new roles at EASTCONN, Amy served as a classroom teacher and Assistant Principal at East Hartford Middle School. She also launched her own consulting company and worked as a special education advocate, assisting families throughout Connecticut. Amy obtained her bachelor’s in Social Work from Central Connecticut State University and continued her education at the University of Hartford, where she earned both a master’s degree and a certification in Elementary Education. Amy earned her 6th-year degree in School Administration at UConn.
Food & Hospitality Services Director
Heather has over 25 years of leadership experience in the food and hospitality industry. After five years of owning and operating a thriving café and catering business, she joined EASTCONN in 2012 and started EASTCONN Food Services. Under the guidance of Heather, EASTCONN became an approved sponsor of the National School Lunch Program by the State of Connecticut in 2012. Since the inception of EASTCONN Food Services, Heather has expanded her program into 15 schools in 8 different districts to ensure that over 5000 students have access to nutritious meals every day. In addition to offering school meals, Heather also opened up the Food for Thought Café that operates out of the QVCC Danielson campus, enabling EASTCONN Food Service to provide a wide array of on-site and off-site catering services and vocational training for EASTCONN students. Heather is a member of the School Nutrition Association and attends workshops and seminars regularly to ensure that her department is kept current and up-to-date on state regulations and guidelines. Along with being a self-taught chef, she has undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and Human Services; and is currently completing her Master's degree in Human Services through Albertus Magnus College. Overall, Heather is a regional leader in food service delivery, whether it be catering, event planning, café management, or a provider of the National School Lunch Program.
With a professional background in digital, print and TV advertising, web design, radio, social media, analytics strategies and graphic design, Dona Prindle brings a wealth of experience to her role as Communications Director. Dona joined EASTCONN as a Marketing and Communications Specialist in 2018, when she quickly began expanding the department’s digital advertising capacity and social media presence. Her understanding of web analytics helped drive new web design strategies and online marketing campaigns that enhanced the agency’s ability to support internal EASTCONN departments and reach new student populations and customers. Dona stepped into her new role as Marketing and Communications Director in 2021. Prior to joining EASTCONN, she worked for many years at the Hartford Courant, where she held numerous marketing positions, including, most recently, that of Marketing Manager for the Chicago Tribune’s operational transition team for its East Coast properties. Prior to working in that role, Dona was Consumer Marketing Manager for the Hartford Courant Media Group, where she was responsible for implementing and maintaining brand integrity for all consumer-facing brands, including that of the Courant, Hartford Magazine, CTNOW, and Studio 1847. Before that, Dona was B2C Brand Manager for The Courant. In addition, she served for nine years as the Courant’s Digital Operations Manager. In that role, she oversaw advertising and marketing operations for the Courant’s extensive digital product suite; supervised a large team of digital advertising operations staff; developed and executed local digital strategies involving new websites and site redesigns; and supervised the initial development and implementation of CT.com, the website of WCCT-TV and The Hartford Advocate weekly newspapers. Dona graduated from UConn, Storrs, with a BFA in Graphic Design. Joining Dona in EASTCONN’s Marketing and Communications Department is a dynamic, highly qualified marketing, graphic design, website and communications team, whose professionalism and expertise significantly enhance the work and reach of EASTCONN. The Marketing group also writes, edits, designs and manages the agency’s award-winning publications, and oversees the agency website, the latter of which reflects the team’s expertise in ADA compliance.