Join a Neighborhood Learning Conversation: Rowland Fellow Cushner Seeks Innovative Transformation for SB

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Thursday March 13, 2014

Each year, the Vermont based Rowland Foundation selects a handful of visionary educators from around Vermont to facilitate change in their schools. Fellows receive $100,000 to research, develop, and implement innovative opportunities for positive change. The Foundation gives five fellowships per year and Big Picture School Program Coordinator Jason Cushner was among the recipients for the 2013-14 year. 

At a school board meeting February 19, Cushner discussed what the grant money has helped achieve to date. 

One major initiative which took place in February was an innovation tour of NYC schools. Teachers and students had the opportunity to spend three days visiting four schools to engage in conversations about proficiency based learning and how it is being implemented. School Director Diane Bugbee, who participated in the tour, said it was really energizing to see so many students truly engaged in learning and getting excited about the process. 

Cushner will be developing and implementing professional and community development plans that allow students and teachers to take the lead in creating curriculum that engages and prepares students for success. A plan for customized graduate level courses for South Burlington teachers, in conjunction with UVM, to prepare for the transition to proficiency based learning standards is also in the works. 

Engaging the greater community is another one of Cushner’s objectives. To accomplish this, he has spearheaded the organization of neighborhood learning conversations.  The concept involves gathering diverse members of the community to engage in dialogue, mainly around the question, “What do our graduates need to succeed?” 

The discussions also provide the opportunity to examine schools that are already undergoing successful transformation. Based on the ideas and energy generated from these conversations, Cushner will work with the SBHS community to create change within SBSD schools. The conversations are designed to help educate the community and the state on what is happening with education today. To host a learning conversation in your neighborhood, e-mail Cushner and his team will provide the snacks and a note taker to document the ideas generated by participants. The results of these meetings will be presented March 20 at the PACT dinner. 

South Burlington is one of the first schools in the state to receive a Rowland grant two years in a row. SBHS math teacher John Painter has received the fellowship for 2014-15.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent