The 18th Annual WELN Conference took place on Wednesday March 22, 2023 at the College of the Holy Cross. The theme of the Conference was Creating a Culture of Belonging
The keynote presentation was delivered by Darnisa Amante-Jackson, President of DLAJ Consulting. Darnisa has been a critical friend in advancing the Racial Equity Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) work of the Association. Her presentation provided a framework for the role of leaders and teachers in building those instructional practices that foster both equity and a sense of belonging. She advocated that there are two levels of belonging that must be created in schools; adult belonging which is centered on empathy, appreciation and recognition of adults in the school culture and student belonging which is centered around social emotional learning (SEL) and restorative practice.
The keynote was followed be a panel of practitioners. Darcy Fernandes, Senior Associate Commissioner at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provided an outline of the key characteristics of psychological safety. Kristen Smidy, Superintendent of Gateway Regional School District, advocated for the importance of cultivating a sense of pride and empowerment in our students and bringing our own sense of identity to the work. Dianne Kelly, Superintendent of the Revere Public Schools presented the focus of her district on Deeper Learning where adult and student learning are viewed as symmetrical. She shared a video about the Revere C2C Program which was designed by Revere teachers to promote Deeper Learning.
The student voice was well represented by the middle school students from the Groton Dunstable School District. They presented their World of Difference program. This program, through the Anti-Defamation League, is about bias and human differences. The students led the participants in a very stimulating activity about personal identity and strategies for creating a sense of community in which all identities are respected. The commitment and poise of these students in presenting this Program was truly inspirational!
The luncheon address was presented by Kalise Wornum, President of KW Diversity Group. She provided a very spirited presentation on creating a sense of belonging through the lens of Street Calculus including risk factors and mitigating factors. She challenged the group to create those conditions that engender a feeling in our students that they belong in every room that they enter
The day concluded with the presentation of the Bobbie D’Alessandro Leadership Award named in honor of the founding educator of WELN. The 2023 recipient was Dr. Dianne Kelly, Superintendent of the Revere Public schools and current President of M.A.S.S.
M.A.S.S would like to thank the WELN Planning Team for providing a very motivating and inspirational program for over 280 educational leaders.