Filling the Professional Development Gap in Caledonia & Southern Essex

By Dawn Powers

Over the past year, the system supporting early childhood professionals in Vermont has been in flux during a critical time of change including new licensing regulations, implementation of Universal Preschool, and changes in professional development delivery and supports. However, the hope is that these changes will lead to better outcomes for the early childhood field and the children and families we serve. “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” (William Pollard)

One of these key changes was the commitment of CDD to transform the Vermont Early Childhood Professional Development System. In the fall of 2016, after a competitive grant process, the State of Vermont awarded the Community College of Vermont a contract to expand their scope of work in supporting early childhood professionals in the State of Vermont. Vermont Birth to Five (VB5) was asked to take on a key role in 2017 – to offer or coordinate local support and professional development opportunities in the regions until CCV could fully implement the transition plan in January of 2018.

This change meant the loss of regional Resource Development Specialists statewide in January 2017, leaving some gaps in both support and professional development opportunities.  The impact of these changes confirmed the need for local support and opportunities for quality professional development. This transition was especially hard in Caledonia/ Southern Essex because of the incredible supports that providers received from our regional staff. However, the community was determined to continue to support our early childhood workforce.

At our March 2017 Caledonia/ Southern Essex BBF Regional Council meeting, the agenda included a follow up discussion about the impact on professional development as well as gaps in child care services and resources. Registered and Licensed early childhood providers expressed concerns regarding new child care licensing regulations; the need for orientation and clear guidance; capacity concerns in both time and financial resources; the need to figure out the best way for providers to get information about multiple topics that fit their needs and availability. Through this discussion, the BBF Regional Council saw an opportunity to help meet the professional development needs of early childhood professionals in our region.

Meanwhile, a sub-group including the Building Bright Futures Regional Coordinator and representatives from St. Johnsbury School, Little Dippers Doodle Children’s Center, Springfield College, and Community College of Vermont- St. Johnsbury campus met to identify ways that we could collaborate to fill the gaps and explore funding opportunities that might help support this initiative.

After investigating several funding opportunities that might allow us to support regional professional development and support, and personal testimony from over 30 early childhood professionals and community partners, the Building Bright Futures Regional Council of Caledonia and Southern Essex decided to submit a proposal to Vermont Birth to Five to provide coordination of trainings and local support for early childhood professionals. VB5 was requesting applications to support regional professional development and local support in the interim of full implementation by CCV. This initiative aligned with our BBF Regional Action Plan Outcome – “Children are ready for school”; Strategy – “Increase early childhood staff and home visitor qualifications / experience”. Action- “Improve the quality of childcare and home visitor services by offering advanced professional development opportunities for early childhood professionals”.

In June 2017, Building Bright Futures (BBF) contracted with Vermont Birth to Five (VB5) to provide coordination of professional development and local support to early childhood professionals for the St. Johnsbury Region.   In the proposal, we identified a large child care center, Little Dippers Doodle Children’s Center (LDDCC), that had capacity short term to sub-contract with BBF to provide these services. We identified an ad-hoc professional development committee to provide oversight to the grant as well as act as an early childhood conference planning team.

Through the implementation of this grant BBF and LDDCC have provided hours of local support to early childhood providers as well as coordination of trainings, including:

  • Here We Go: New Center Based Child Care and Preschool (CBCCPP) Licensing Rules
  • Here We Go: New Family Child Care Home (FCCH) Licensing Rules
  • Supportive Communication with Parents presented by Scott Noyes
  • Medication Administration training (3 offerings as classes filled up)
  • Emergency Preparedness Training for Child Care Programs
  • ‘What is Sexual Abuse?’ – PCAV
  • Fundamentals – Module 1, Introduction to Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals
  • Fundamentals – Module 2 -The Early Childhood Learning Environment
  • Fundamentals – Module 3 Part A Child Development: Emotional Development

We are currently planning a November Early Childhood Conference – “Experiencing the Wonder of Science and Math” in collaboration with many community partners.

On August 7, 2017, BBF hosted three community meetings with Becky Millard, the new Director of Early Childhood Professional Development System at CCV. These community meetings offered an opportunity for child care providers and community partners to meet Ms. Millard, share concerns with her about the changes, ask questions and help inform the transformation process. Our follow up plan was to have her come back to our region in November or December 2017 to help with a soft hand off and build confidence in the new system.

With only 2 months left of the grant to provide local support and coordination for professional development, our council will discuss whether there is a need to seek additional grant funding to continue to support early childhood professionals in our region or if we will only be needed to promote a smooth transition to CCV staff to provide future support for early childhood professionals.

We are extremely grateful for the coordination and local support provided in our region made possible by the contract between BBF and VB5 and a subcontract with LDDCC and the incredible support of Betsy Bailey and Marie Sullivan of LDDCC. Without this collaboration, we would not have been able to meet the needs of providers in our region- despite having strong Starting Point Networks too.

This is a great example of how our BBF Regional Council took a leadership role to identify an issue, assess it and identify a solution to address the needs of early childhood professionals in our region. In the process, we have strengthened several partnerships and created new relationships. To learn more about the work of Building Bright Futures of Caledonia/ Southern Essex or get involved, contact Dawn Powers, Regional Coordinator at or attend a council meeting on the third Monday of each month (except July) from 5:30- 7 pm at the AHS Conference Room at the Vermont Department of Health on 107 Eastern Avenue in St. Johnsbury.

Dawn Powers
Caledonia, Orleans, and Essex Regional Coordinator
Building Bright Futures



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