Inclusion Expert Lisa Dieker to Present at #BPSCon

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Burlington Public Schools is excited to welcome Lisa Dieker as a presenter at BPSCon.  Dr. Dieker is a Pegasus Professor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar at the University of Central Florida.  She has authored several books including Leading the Co-Teaching Dance: Leadership Strategies, 20 Tools for the Collaborative Classroomand Strategies for Teaching Content Effectively in the Inclusive Secondary Classroom.

Dr. Dieker will present to high school and middle school teachers on Thursday.

#BPSCon Welcomes Lyn Hilt – Teacher, Administrator, Google and Apple Certified Trainer…

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We are excited to have Lyn Hilt join us at BPSCon to support teachers and administrators in becoming more adept at using the vast resources available in the Google Suite for Education.  Lyn spent over 15 years working as both a teacher and a Principal at the elementary and middle school levels in Pennsylvania.  She is well known among educational leaders across the country for her work as both as a teacher and a Principal.

In a recent blog post, Lyn described her work as a consultant and the joy she gets in working with teachers around the country:

I love being a consultant. I know that to some educators, consultant is a dirty word. It need not be. As a teacher and principal, I, too, was skeptical of someone from “the outside” coming to our schools and classrooms to show & tell their way into our hearts and minds. In fact, I think I truly connected with and appreciated the work of maybe only a handful of consultants in my time as classroom teacher, coach, and principal. But most days, in this line of work, I leave with a smile on my face, feeling energized and privileged to work with the teachers and school leaders in my midst.

You can see Lyn’s schedule at BPSCon here.

#BPSCon Countdown is 18 Days – NEWSELA is Coming

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With BPSCon just 19 days away, I wanted to start highlighting some of the more than 130 sessions that will be offering at our 10th annual back-to-school professional learning extravaganza.  Aside from nearly 100 sessions led by BPS teachers, we also have some outside presenters coming to support staff in a variety of areas.

Our first highlighted topic is Newsela, a resource we piloted across the district last spring. Due to the tremendous feedback we received from staff who utilized Newsela, we have purchased a Pro account for all staff this year. Common Sense Media describes Newsela as follow:

an online news-as-literacy program that features current articles in seven categories: War & Peace, Science, Health, Kids, Money, Law, and Arts. Content is updated daily, with stories from a wide range of sources (from the Associated Press to Scientific American to the Washington Post) in both English and Spanish. On top of this, all articles are Common Core-aligned and available in five Lexile levels, ranging (roughly) from third to 12th grade. Each leveled text features a quiz tailored to that particular article plus a writing prompt that asks kids to write and respond to what they’ve read.


We will have a trainer from Newsela running sessions all day on Wednesday so that staff members can have multiple opportunities to get up and running with Newsela.  In the meantime, please take a moment and go to and click on the sign-in button in the top-right corner of the page. Choose the sign in with Google option and then your BPS Google account to be signed in automatically. If you would like to get started learning about Newsela prior to BPSCon, you can check out the numerous options on the Learning and Support page which can be found under the question mark at the top of the screen on the right once you sign in.

We are excited to add Newsela to the list of resources available to BPS staff and students! You can check out the entire BPSCon schedule here.  We will continue to tweak the schedule in the final days leading up to BPSCon.

Raising the Bar on Professional Development

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For a number of years, my school district (Burlington Public Schools) has started the year with three days of professional development structured in a conference format which we call BPSCon.  It has definitely been an iterative process as we have taken the feedback of staff members each year to try to strike a balance between mandatory sessions and choice options. In addition, we have worked hard to try to ensure that there are relevant offerings for specialists and teachers at all grade levels.
Not surprisingly, the thing that has made the biggest impact for us in providing more meaningful sessions for staff members has been putting structures in place that allow staff members to have a more active voice in developing the schedule. Two years ago, Burlington joined the District Capacity Project (DCP), a joint venture between labor and management that supported our district in setting up a committee comprised of educators from across our district and administrators to meet monthly to plan meaningful Professional Development.
One of the reasons this process has worked so well is that it never ends. Our District Capacity Project team will meet in September to review our staff survey from the BPSCon that took place this past week and begin to plan for next year’s conference. In addition, feedback from teachers also allows us to expand some of our PD offerings for the upcoming school year as they respond to the following questions:
  • Are there sessions that you were not able to attend that you would like to see offered during the school year?
  • Are there sessions that you did attend that you would like to see additional Professional Development time dedicated to during the school year?
Based on the responses of our teachers, we will be able to offer after-school sessions or online sessions in the evening that will allow them to pursue additional PD credits in areas in which they are most interested.
The DCP work in Burlington has created a process in which teacher voice truly shapes Professional Learning opportunities. Staff members recommend colleagues to lead sessions who have experience in a variety of areas. In addition, staff members submit names of presenters from positive PD experiences they have had outside of school.   A few of the sessions that received the most positive feedback at this year’s BPSCon came because of these recommendations by staff.  Sessions like Religions in Burlington (members of the Burlington Interfaith Clergy are pictured below), Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, and Mindfulness came directly from staff recommendations of outside presenters.
While our work on providing meaningful PD options for all staff members is far from over, creating a process where educators have an authentic voice in the process has allowed for much greater diversity in our offerings and far greater satisfaction levels for our lead learners (teachers).

BPSCON Gets Positive Reviews from Burlington Teachers

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Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti, addresses staff during the opening session of BPSCON

Before we welcomed students back for the 2015-2016 school year this week, over 400 Burlington educators were busy taking part in our annual Burlington Public Schools Professional Development Conference called BPSCON. While BPSCON has become a regular occurrence for Burlington educators, this year’s conference received the most positive feedback we have had surrounding our opening Professional Development (PD) days.  The collaborative efforts of the Burlington Educators’ Association and the Burlington Public Schools Central Administration made this year’s BPSCON much more of a joint endeavor than it has been previously.

This renewed collaborative journey surrounding PD in Burlington began at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year when our district agreed to be part of the District Capacity Project, a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association, and the Rennie Center.  The District Capacity Project provided our district with both a framework and support to help guide our monthly professional development meetings with our team of teachers, administrators, and an outside facilitator.

After surveying teachers during the year and hearing that staff members were seeking a greater voice in creating their PD offerings, we put out the call for our talented teachers to propose sessions to lead for their colleagues.  Thankfully our BPS faculty members stepped up in a big way, proposing over 40 sessions for our opening conference.  

Here is what a few of the new Burlington Public Schools staff members had to say about their first three days in Burlington:

“I enjoyed the flexibility of designing my own schedule.  There was great variety and options to choose from and I thought the length of the sessions was just right.” (Jeff Pera, joins Burlington Public Schools from Natick Public Schools)

“BPSCon was the best beginning of the school year teacher workshop days I’ve ever experienced. “ (Dr. Conti’s) opening remarks were impactful, yet hilarious. I had tears of laughter which was a new and wonderful experience for me  during a superintendent’s first day back speech. BPSCon was exactly what I needed as a first-year teacher in Burlington .Having BPS educators present is brilliant and empowering. All who presented are the best experts in our field; why pay outsiders to come in? All school districts should follow this innovative model.  (Rachel Small, joins Burlington from Manchester (NH) Public Schools)

With the positive feedback from this year’s BPSCON, the BPS staff members involved with planning Professional Development through the DIstrict Capacity Project are excited to find opportunities to continue offering staff timely and engaging PD opportunities throughout the school year. Special thanks to the following BPS staff member for their hard work on this initiative: Diana Marcus (Burlington Educators’ Association President), Michael Coughlin, Rachel Gould, Carolyn Crowley, Sean Musselman and Deb Dressler. These educators, central office administration and school committee representative, Kristen Russo, have already developed a schedule to continue work on this initiative during the 2015/2016 school year.