Annual Community Dialogue

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The Annual Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care at Wheelock College brings together federal, local, and state administrators with providers, policymakers, educators, and many others seeking to improve the quality and effectiveness of early childhood education. Wheelock has hosted the conference each spring since 2006.

The landscape of administration, policy, and provision of early education and care in Massachusetts is evolving, with changes in direction, financing and scope of services. Each spring, the Annual Community Dialogue is a place to discuss what kind of new leadership and alliances are needed to achieve a more cohesive delivery system, dedicated to equitable and high quality programming in all domains of the field. Guest speakers representing national, state, and local organizations, government, and programs listen and discuss questions and issues together with the audience.

The 2014 Annual Community Dialogue

Wheelock's Ninth Annual Community Dialogue will be held Thursday, May 29, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Registration will open in late April

Titled  "Our Children's Future–Time for a New Plan," it will be an interactive strategic working session that builds on outcomes from previous Dialogues. Participants will work together to produce a new public policy action brief to be circulated widely among stakeholders in Massachusetts, including the new governor, legislature, funders and the statewide early education and care community. Plan to attend and collaborate to create the action agenda and move it forward for all young children in the Commonwealth!

Featured Speakers for this Year's Event

Marie St. Fleur, Esq.
President and CEO
Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children
and Clare Higgins
Executive Director
Community Action


Marie St. Fleur Bio
Marie St. Fleur joined nonprofit research and advocacy organization Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children in November 2013. Ms. St. Fleur comes to her new position after a long career in public service, where she was known as a tireless advocate on behalf of children and families. Her new role allows her to use her experience as an attorney, legislator, and senior leader in municipal government to support grassroots research on early education and care system advocate for change and expand outreach and engagement of families, providers, policymakers, and government agencies and the public in support of this sector.

Ms. St. Fleur was appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino on June 13, 2010, as the Chief of Advocacy and Strategic Investment for the City of Boston. In that capacity Ms. St. Fleur led the Mayor Menino Circle of Promise Initiative and oversaw the Department of Intergovernmental Relations, The Office of New Bostonian, The Small and Local Business/Boston Jobs For Boston Residents Policy, and his Diversity and Reentry Initiatives.

Former State Representative Marie St. Fleur was first elected to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1999, and is the first Haitian-American elected to state office in the United States. As the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Arts and Humanities, Representative St. Fleur championed two-way bilingual education and alternative education and led the establishment of the new Massachusetts Board and Department of Early Education and Care.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Representative St. Fleur earned a Law Degree from Boston College Law School in 1987. Ms. St. Fleur serves as Chair of The Advisory Council for the Haiti Fund at The Boston Foundation, and is on the board of directors of the Dorchester Boys and Girls Club, and Project Hope. Ms. St. Fleur is a former trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and past President of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. She has been featured on WCVB Television's City Line and Chronicle, WGBH Television's Greater Boston, Boston Magazine and Commonwealth Magazine.

Clare Higgins Bio
Clare Higgins is the Executive Director at Community Action, the area's largest anti-poverty agency serving more than 20,000 of our neighbors in Franklin, Hampshire, Western Hampden, and North Quabbin regions.

No stranger to human services, Ms. Higgins worked in the early education and care field in many capacities for 25 years; as an infant, toddler, and preschool teacher; as a center and program director; and as a childcare union organizer. She worked in programs funded by the Commonwealth serving low and moderate income families, families involved with child protective services, and with young parents completing their education.

Ms. Higgins is perhaps most widely recognized for her lengthy political career after having served three terms on the City Council and six terms as Mayor of the City of Northampton from 2000-2011.

Ms. Higgins has served as a commissioner of the Northampton Housing Authority, a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and is currently a member of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center Board.

Past Dialogues

Since 2006, the Annual Community Dialogue has sparked both conversation and scholarship. Visit the Past Dialogues web page to learn more about each year's topic and see Summary Reports.

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