Past Community Dialogues

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Wheelock College began hosting the Annual Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care in 2005. The event brings together state administrators, providers, policymakers, educators, and many others seeking to improve the quality and effectiveness of early childhood education.

Learn about the past Annual Community Dialogues.

2014 Conference
2013 Conference

2012 Conference
2011 Conference
2010 Conference
2009 Conference
2008 Conference
2007 Conference
2006 Conference

2014 Annual Community Dialogue

9th Annual Community Dialogue, June Update:

Eye on Early Education, a blog of Strategies for Children, posted a two-part blog about the May 29th event:

Ninth Annual Wheelock Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care - Part One

Ninth Annual Wheelock Community Dialogue on Early Education and Care - Part Two

Wheelock Annual Dialogue 2014

Wheelock's Ninth Annual Community Dialogue was held Thursday, May 29, 2014.

Titled  "Our Children's Future–Time for a New Plan," the dialogue was an interactive strategic working session that built on outcomes from previous Dialogues. 

2014 Annual Community DialogueThe 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.

Educators who work directly with children in classrooms or family child care homes were especially urged to attend the 9th Annual Community Dialogue on ECE. The first twenty educators to register and attend the full Dialogue on May 29th received a $50.00 gift card from


2014 Annual Community DialogueBreakfast

Jackie Jenkins-Scott, Wheelock College President
Tom Weber, MA Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner

Presentation: MassBudget Building a Foundation for Success
Jeff Bernstein, MassBudget Policy Analyst - MassBudget paper "Building a Foundation for Success" is available at this link.

Keynote Speakers
Marie St. Fleur, Esq., Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children President and CEO, Boston, MA 
Claire Higgins, Community Action Executive Director, serving Franklin, Hampshire, Western Hampden and North Quabbin regions


Interactive Dialogues

Session Topic List:

  1. "It Takes a Village AND a Family" - Family engagement in early education
  2. "What's the Score?"- Assessment of children in early education
  3. "Nurturing the Future" - Including infants and toddlers in early education space and understanding and supporting the role of practitioners.
  4. "The Social Skills Toolbox"- The Importance of Socio-Emotional Learning
  5. "Making the Case for Playtime" - The role of play in early education
  6. "Teaching iKids" - Technology in early education
  7. "Join the Circle!" - Increasing inclusion in early education
  8. "Lost in Translation" - Supporting English language learners
  9. "All Systems Go" - Systems coordination throughout Massachusetts
  10. "The Valuation of Education" "How Do We Get Off the Financing Seesaw?" - Successful Financing for Early Education
  11. "Being a Lifelong Learner" Professional development and the role of institutions of higher education
  12. "Don't Break the Chain!" - Continuity of care and B-8 alignment in Massachusetts
  13. "Show Us the Money" - Compensation for the Early Education Workforce
  14. "A Right or a Privilege?" - Universal access in Massachusetts
  15. "Follow the Leader" - What can community providers, public schools, and private and family care centers learn from each other's ECE models?

Closing Discussion 


Participants in the 2014 Community Dialogues are working 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. 


Marie St. Fleur

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

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.

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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2013 Annual Community Dialogue

Raising Our Voices: The Power of Advocacy: The Time for Action is Now! Winning Strategies to Move Public Policies Forward for Children, Families and Educators

Guest Speakers:

  • Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley
  • Former Mayor of Northampton Mary Clare Higgins
  • State Senator Sal N. DiDomenico (Middlesex and Suffolk)
  • State Representative Aaron Vega (Fifth Hamden)
  • Westfield City Councilor Agma Maria Sweeney
  • Najeema Holas-Huggins, Manager of Marketing and Assistant Researcher, Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children
  • Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor Emerita, Lesley University, Defending the Early Years
  • Hanna Gebretensae, Director of Early Childhood Programs, Aspire Institute
  • Joelle Auguste, Director, Multilingual Action Council
  • Mav Pardee, Program Manager and Marty Cowden, Associate Program Manager, Children's Investment Fund
  • Amy O'Leary and Emily Levine, Strategies for Children
  • Nancy Wagman, MA Kids Count Project Director, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
  • Acting Commissioner Tom Weber, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
  • Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matt Malone


Session 1. Increase to Improve: Advocacy for Increased Compensation to Improve the Quality of Early Education
This interactive dialogue focused on the state of early education workforce compensation advocacy being done to support the field and how you can join the effort. New information on the MA Early Educators Career Ladder was presented, including the release of a report featuring data from the state's PQ Registry.

Session 2. How Market-Based Ed. Reforms are Affecting Young Children and their Teacher
Federal and state education policies have required an increasing emphasis on standards and assessments in early childhood programs. How has this happened and what does it mean for young children? What can teachers do to reclaim play, creativity, and developmentally appropriate education for young kids?

Session 3. Voices in Multiple Languages: The Charge to Educate and Support English Language Learners
More than one in four children under age 6 lives in households that speak a language other than English. The number of children and adults who come from multiple linguistic/cultural backgrounds is rapidly growing. In order to prepare children who are English Language Learners (ELLs) from birth to school readiness, it is essential to focus on their early learning experiences, the quality of their educators and the active engagement of their families and multicultural communities.

Session 4. Building Quality: Advocating for Sustainable Financing for Facilities
The physical environment affects children's health, development and learning, and influences teacher effectiveness and morale. It is a critical, but often overlooked, dimension of program quality. Starting with a statewide inventory on the condition of centers in MA, the fund has built a coalition to support an innovative bond financing mechanism to renovate or construct ECE and OST facilities. How is the campaign going and where will it lead?

Session 5. The Push Towards Universal Pre-K
President Obama and governors across the country are prioritizing early education. Governor Patrick's FY14 state budget proposal increases investments in early education, and positions Massachusetts to be a national leader. In this dialogue, we discussed the important conversation taking place locally and nationally to ensure that children have universal access to high-quality preschool programs.

Session 6. MA Budget and Policy Center
The state budget is about choices: How we as a Commonwealth choose to invest our resources, through our government, to strengthen our communities, support vulnerable residents, and build a vibrant economy. MassBudget's session examines the choices we have made, where we are now, and the opportunities ahead. Participants gained a clear understanding of state budget and tax policy. They learned how past policy choices have created the current fiscal crisis and harmed funding for core state services. They also learned about the state tax system and how it affects different income groups. Attendees can use the knowledge gained through this workshop to participate actively in state discussions on budget and tax policy.

Download the 2013 Program Agenda and List of Speakers

Read a blog post by Strategies for Children about the 2013 event!

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2012 Annual Community Dialogue

"Moving From At Risk to At Promise: Transforming Policies, Practices and Communities to Support Young Children and Their Families"

All children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. No child should be at risk; all children should be at promise. Access to high quality early education and care is key to meet this goal.

  • What policies at the federal, state and community level are needed in order to help fulfill this promise? How do they support the children, the families and the professionals who work with them?
  • What role will Race to the Top/the Early Learning Challenge Funds play in moving Massachusetts forward to have all of its youngest citizens at promise?
  • How does the desire to support the growing number of English language learners mesh with the current reality?
  • What kind of policies and practices are needed to support all children and all early childhood professionals, both English Language Learners and English proficient?
  • What role do families play in meeting these goals and how can the field and the State support families to give the best possible early education and care options to their children?

This Community Dialogue focused on these and other questions as we heard from guest speakers from national and state organizations and engaged in discussion with them about ways to strengthen systems, policies, and practices so that all children are "at promise."

Guest Speakers

  • Helen Blank, Director of Leadership and Public Policy working on child care and early education issues at the National Women's Law Center, Washington, DC. Download her speech (pdf).
  • Dr. J. Andrés Ramirez, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies and Coordinator of the English as a Second Language (ESL) Intensive Program, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI.
  • Sherri Killins, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
  • Paul Reville, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Goal Statement

The goal for the day was to begin the process of transforming policies, practices, and communities in support of young children and their families to assure that all children are at promise through sustainable systemic change. This included how the Early Learning Challenge Grant awarded to Massachusetts (2012-2015) can serve as a catalyst and how to effectively address the professional development of our diverse workforce in order to achieve the goal.

Download the 2012 Program Agenda and List of Speakers (pdf)

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2011 Annual Community Dialogue

"Developing New Leaders, Alliances and Solutions"

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2010 Annual Community Dialogue

Guest Speakers were:

  • Danielle Ewen, Director, Child Care and Early Education Policy Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
  • Ms. Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, Director, Office of Head Start Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Jacqueline Jones, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education
  • Dr. Sherri Killins, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
  • Paul Reville, Secretary of Education, Massachusetts Executive Office of Education

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2009 Annual Community Dialogue

Information to come.

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2008 Annual Community Dialogue

Information to come.

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2007 Annual Community Dialogue

"We Can Get There From Here - A Vision for Workforce Development"

See the 2007 Summary Report (pdf)

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2006 Annual Community Dialogue

"First Annual Community Dialogue"

More than 150 policy makers, community leaders, practitioners and other advocates gathered at Wheelock College to discuss next steps for further developing a system of early education and care for all children in Massachusetts. The conference topic was: Workforce Development for Our Diverse Early Childhood and School-Age Workforce

See the 2006 Summary Report (pdf)

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