Annual Spring Conference

Each year, VSA holds a joint conference in collaboration with the Vermont Curriculum Leaders Association and the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators.

Cultivating Innovation: An Education Leadership Conference for Inclusive and Future-Focused Schools
May 16 & 17, 2024
DoubleTree by Hilton

Please join us in a conference focused on collaboration and innovation to enhance student learning in a future-focused context. The conference is designed to support learning from and with one another through peer-led open spaces, workshops designed to share successful and innovative practices, and a group-wide exercise in reimagining the future of learning environments in Vermont. On day one, we will lay the foundation for collaborative innovation by refocusing on recent learner-centered policy shifts, such as Universal Design for Learning, outlined in the best practices in Act 173 of 2018, and culturally connected and inclusive learning from the anticipated changes to the Education Quality Standards via Act 1 of 2019.

Day 1 -Thursday, May 16, 2024

9:00 – 9:30: Welcome
9:30 – 10:30: Keynote with Mirko Chardin / Keynote Artist Kya Jackson
10:30 – 11:15: Mini Open-Space
11:15 – 11:30: Break
11:30 – 12:00: Conference Partner Workshops and Exposition
12:00 – 12:40: Lunch
12:45 – 2:00: Innovative Practices and Systems Change Workshops Round 1
2:00 – 2:15 – Break
2:15 – 3:30 – Innovative Practices and Systems Change Workshops Round 2
3:30 – 4:15 – Day 1 Group Reflection; Raffle Drawing
6:15 – 6:30 – Silent Auction Begins
6:30 – 8:00 – Dinner, Awards, and Auction in Support of the Alice Angney Scholarship

Day 2 – Friday, May 17, 2024

8:30 – 9:45: Association Business Meetings
9:45 – 10:00: Break
10:00 – 10:15: Day 2 Welcome
10:15 – 12:30: Reimagining Education; Facilitated Session with Transcend Education
12:30 – 1:30: Lunch
1:30 – 2:30: Legislative Update on Literacy
2:30: Adjourn

Thursday Keynote Presenter: Mirko Chardin

Mirko Chardin is Novak Education’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. Before joining Novak, he was the Founding Head of School of the Putnam Avenue Upper School in Cambridge, MA. Mirko’s work has involved all areas of school management and student support. His greatest experience and passion revolves around culturally connected teaching and learning, recruiting and retaining educators of color, restorative practice, and school culture. He is also a race, diversity, and cultural proficiency facilitator & leadership coach for the Aspire Institute at Boston University’s New Wheelock College of Human Development and Education and is a Virtual Module Content Provider and In-Person Technical Assistance Provider for the Dept. of Ed.’s Inclusive Practice Academy.

He is a principal mentor for the Perone-Sizer Creative Leadership Institute, a former Trustee at Wheaton College and is an active hip-hop artist. Mirko presents both locally and nationally on issues of cultural proficiency, equity, Universal Design for Learning and the use of personal narratives. He is also the co-author with Dr. Katie Novak of the bestselling “Equity by Design: The Power and Promise of UDL“.

Friday Reimagining Education Facilitated Session with Transcend Education

Transcend is a national nonprofit that supports school communities to create and spread extraordinary, equitable learning environments. The organization was founded on the beliefs that we must reimagine schooling so all children can realize their infinite potential and that communities have a crucial role in driving this work. Transcend pursues its mission by directly supporting design processes and then shares the tools, models, and insights from this work across its national network of schools and through engaging top leaders in school systems, philanthropy, and policy. Ultimately, Transcend works to be part of collective solutions that enable significant leaps in education so all young people can thrive in and transform the world.

As Vermont’s public education contend with significant challenges, they have identified a lack of a statewide vision for public education and the experiences that all students should have access to. With this opportunity education administrators will begin to start thinking about what it could look like to reimagine education in Vermont in a way that both inspires them and inspires further conversations with a broader group of stakeholders.

Over the course of this workshop, Transcend will support participants to:
● Explore Transcend’s Leaps for Equitable, 21st-Century Learning in order to deepen their understanding of the shifts that need to be made in order to realize equitable and extraordinary outcomes and experiences for all students.
● Using the Leaps, develop a common language around how to talk about school innovation and engage in both individual and community reflection around what it could look like to reimagine education in Vermont.
● Discuss how existing state policies are currently enabling or inhibiting that vision from being realized, and what it might take to unlock innovation at the state and district levels.
● Begin to share best practices aligned with the Leaps framework.

Thursday – Innovative Practices and Systems Change Workshops Round 1: 

Cultivating Capacity with the EQS with Teachers and Students

This workshop will showcase the work of FNESU students who participated with a cohort of teachers in exploring and deepening their understanding of the Education Quality Standards Teaching Practices in a course titled “Applying Inclusive and Equitable Teaching Practices”. This local seminar was one in a cohort of many seminars around the state, designed by the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont and facilitated as a district offering in FNESU by Dr. Michelle Irish and Martin Vallender. Through the in-person sessions, participants could unpack identity, analyze their own practices and assessments, and consider different strategies for creating more equitable classrooms.  Through goal setting and resource acquisition, participants collaborated to build a state-wide resource bank. This workshop will unpack the facilitation process, showcase the work of FNESU students who felt empowered to harness student voice for change, and provide a model for districts to support teachers in shifting to the updated EQS practices.

Presenters: Martin Vallender, Emily Kimball, Alicia (student), Kida (student)

Community Graduates: Connecting Community Schools with Vermont Portrait of a Graduate

Cabot School has long thought of itself as a Community School. Over the past four years, Cabot School has documented our focus on practices that deepen student learning through relevant topics, student voice, leadership, and inter-age experiences and relationships. In this workshop, participants will explore artifacts, hear about our learning journey as a school community, and learn from students about their experiences as community members. We will spend time reflecting on how schools can be an avenue for fostering deeper learning, student voice and choice, and systemic coherence within a PK-12 school community. Through the exploration of these documents and conversations with students who have engaged in the work, participants will reflect on the question: How can project-based and proficiency-based learning foster the characteristics of Vermont’s Portrait of a Graduate?

Presenters: Dr. Rebecca Tatistcheff with students from Cabot School

Growing FIRST Robotics in Vermont

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is the world’s leading youth-serving nonprofit that is advancing STEAM education. FIRST gives students a framework to learn STEAM and interpersonal skills through the context of competitive robotics. Teams of students design and build robots, work with local businesses to secure funding, conduct community outreach inspiring younger students, and present their work at competitions.  “FIRST is more than robots. The robots are a vehicle for students to learn important life skills. Kids often come in not knowing what to expect – of the program or of themselves. They leave, even after the first season, with a vision, confidence, and sense that they can create their own future, ” says FIRST founder Dean Kamen. In Vermont, there are more than one thousand students on FIRST teams, most of whom are affiliated with public schools. In this workshop, we will hear from the students who lead FIRST in the Champlain Valley District, discover how to start  FIRST teams in your District, and learn about the support structure that is in place to support teams in Vermont.  These students provide an insightful perspective on Vermont’s Portrait of a Graduate.

Presenters: Rene Sanchez, Superintendent, Champlain Valley School District;  James: CVU Junior, Co-Captain CVSD Robotics, Founding Member of Green Mountain Robotics; Clay: CVU Sophomore, Co-Captain CVSD Robotics, Founding Member of Green Mountain Robotics; Crawford: CVU Alum (2023), Former Co-Captain CVSD Robotics, Founding Member of Green Mountain Robotics, BETA Team Member; Joe: State Coordinator – FIRST in VT, Coach of Green Mountain Robotics; John: BETA Team Member, IBM Fellow Emeritus

Do as I Do: Building Trust to Improve Systems

Shifting systems and culture is challenging work. It’s easy to implement technical strategies, but we argue that modeling is the only top-down approach worth exploring. Join us to hear more about how we have been trying to lead by example in growth, reflection, ownership, and accountability at the administrative level to shift the culture around teacher growth. We will highlight tools and practices that keep our focus on building trust in a way that concretely improves systems.

Presenters: Brian Hill, Jodie Stewart-Ruck

Teacher Voice for Structured Literacy: A Case Study of District Change 

Mountain Views Supervisory Union educators in Vermont will share their grassroots-initiated structured literacy change story. How did an adolescent structured literacy program grow into teacher leadership for systemic change at the Tier 1 level district-wide? Join us to find out!

Presenters: Julie Brown, Literacy Facilitator, Mountain Views Supervisory Union; Sherry Sousa, Superintendent, Mountain Views Supervisory Union; Jennifer Stainton, Mountain Views Supervisory Union, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Thursday – Innovative Practices and Systems Change Workshops Round 2: 

Cultivating Innovation: Nurturing and Growing Alternative Education Programs

In light of students’ growing mental health needs, coupled with limited outside agency resources, our workshop, “Cultivating Innovation-Growing Alternative Education Programs,” aims to equip educators and school administrators with alternative programming strategies to address these challenges effectively. This workshop offers practical insights and tools to create supportive programs within schools, fostering resilience and well-being among students and staff.

Presenters: Michelle Theberge, Stacie Kittell-Godin, Adrea Parent, Robin Gagne, Lindsay Palmer

From Evaluation to Empowerment: Implementing a Growth-Focused Coaching Model in Teacher Assessment

Participants will learn what FNESU is doing to design a growth-focused teacher evaluation model with a framework customized to district priorities and needs. The workshop will cover general pedagogical best practices, along with embedded goal setting for teachers and administrators and coaching competencies.

Presenters: Lynn Cota, Superintendent, Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union; Rachel Reynolds, Senior Consultant, Teaching Learning Solutions; Michelle Irish, Director for the Advancement of Educational Equity, Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union

Deeper Learning For Democracy

Deeper learning is gaining traction as a promising educational approach to better support students in our rapidly changing world, where our democracy is under perennial attack. Deeper learning emphasizes both content knowledge mastery and proficiency in what is often referred to as “21st-century skills” or “transferable skills” in Vermont education terminology. This workshop session will provide participants with a shared definition of deeper learning and strategies for supporting implementation efforts.  Furthermore, connections will be made to how deeper learning can prepare students to become engaged citizens who can effectively participate in and support our democracy.

Presenters: Andrew Jones, Jess DeCarolis, Gabe Hamilton, Michael Ruppel

Reimaging Coaching for Changing Systems: How instructional coaching has changed (Acts 77 and 173) and continues to evolve in one Vermont district as our systems and structures shift. Join Slate Valley’s Director of Curriculum and Coaches as they share their journey of innovating and responding to data to improve student outcomes.

Presenters: Casey O’Meara, Director of Curriculum; Kristen Whitman, MTSS Coordinator; Instructional Coaches: Molly Clark, Jessica Thurston, Lynn LaClair, and Abigail Wald, Coach, EST Coordinator, Middle School Interventionist