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March Recap: State Advisory Council


Behind view of a family of a mother, father and boy child having fun during the winter season and taking a walk as the snow melts

The Early Childhood State Advisory Council (SAC) brings together up to 23 Governor appointed and at-large public and private early childhood leaders and decision-makers from across sectors to issue recommendations and increase coordination and collaboration to advance a more connected, integrated and evolving early childhood system. The March 22nd meeting focused on membership and the role of the State Advisory Council with 39 people in attendance. The meeting opened with a statement read by BBF Executive Director, Dr. Morgan Crossman by one of her former mentors, Jack Shonkoff from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child where he stated,

“Now, a year later, early childhood policies and services are at a critical inflection point—and the need to build a stronger ecosystem has never been more compelling. Longstanding concerns about fragile infrastructure and chronic funding constraints have been laid bare…The science of early childhood development continues to advance, and tenuous “systems” that were in place to support families before the pandemic began need to be rethought, not just rebuilt. Early childhood policy must be about the foundations of both lifelong health and readiness to succeed in school. The reconstruction of a more robust ecosystem that forges stronger connections at all levels among health care (both physical and mental), early care and education, social services, child welfare, and financial supports is essential. Making sure that all policies and services are guided by the best available knowledge (both scientific and pragmatic)—and evaluated rigorously to determine what works for whom in which contexts—are necessary prerequisites for achieving greater impact at scale. Few disagree with the call for a different path forward, but the nature of that path remains to be determined.”

SAC Membership and Acknowledgements

Co-chairs Cheryle Wilcox and Chloe Learey presented about the State Advisory Council which is a voting body comprising 23 individuals – 7 state agency leaders designated, 3 members from the Vermont legislature, 13 at-large members of the public, and a non-voting representative from the Governor’s office. At-large members serve for 3 years and up to 2 consecutive terms. They acknowledged the long standing leadership of Kim Keiser, Julie Cadwallader-Staub and Nicole Grenier who concluded their terms on the SAC. 

We welcomed Wendy Trafton, the Deputy Director of Health Reform, who is serving as the Secretary of Human Services’ representative and assumed the seat that Auburn Watersong held. Co-chairs then presented the slate of 6 at-large members which were then voted unanimously to the board. The SAC also voted to welcome Flor Diaz Smith to the Executive Committee. Here is a brief summary of the 6 new at-large members. Full bios are available here.

  1. Alexis Duquette– Lexi is a parent of four children living in Putney and actively involved with the BBF Families and Communities Committee, served as a Parent Ambassador for the recently completed Family Engagement Assessment and was elected co-chair and the Southeast Vermont Regional Council.
  2. Dr. Ashley Miller– Dr. Ashley works at the South Royalton Health Center as well as school based clinics. She works with kids from birth through graduation and has a special interest in adolescent medicine and mental health. Dr. Ashley is also actively engaged in the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  3. Rebecca Webb– Becca Webb is the Act 166 Coordinator for several supervisory unions in Central Vermont. She has also worked as a  developmental educator in Early Intervention, as a public-school classroom teacher, itinerant special educator, as well as a teacher and director in a community childcare program. Becca also is a member of  the BBF Child Outcomes Accountability Team.
  4. Eddie Gale– Eddie Gale is the Vermont Program Director for the A.D. Henderson Foundation. He brings experience as a key philanthropic partner supporting early childhood systems improvements. Eddie has been a longtime partner of BBF by serving on VECAP committees and attending SAC members regularly.
  5. Mike McRaith-Mike McRaith works as the Assistant Executive Director for the Vermont Principals’ Association. Mike was the e 2018 Vermont High School Educator of the Year and will help bridge early childhood work with our public education system partners to build a more seamless system throughout the lifecourse. 
  6. Paul Dragon– Paul Dragon is the Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Over the past 15 years, Paul has worked at the Vermont Agency of Human Services in several roles, including the Deputy Secretary for the Agency and Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. 
The role and opportunity of the State Advisory Council

With many new members joiningthe SAC, the second part of the meeting focussed on the role and opportunity of the SAC. Dr. Crossman presented about BBF’s mission which is to improve the well-being of children and families in Vermont by using evidence to inform policy and bringing voices together across sectors and within regions to discuss critical challenges and problem-solve. She then shared a vision of Baby Mariah, a baby born in Vermont in the year 2026 to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the early childhood work held by BBF and represented in the four goals of the Vermont Early Childhood Action Plan.

The State Advisory Council seeks to be a diverse body with representation of stakeholders invested in the wellbeing of children and families. Dr. Crossman presented primary expectations and functions of the SAC: 

The group was joined by former SAC co-chair and South Burlington School District Superintendent, David Young who reflected on why the SAC is important to leverage investment in early childhood. Current SAC members also reflected they felt the strength and opportunity of the SAC is to bring together partners across the early childhood system to work together. Issues of particular priority have been around mental health as well as equity and diversity. Cheryle Wilcox, Department of Mental Health shared, “the time spent focussing on early childhood is time that is incredibly valuable and our department has benefited tremendously from the relationship.” and Flor Diaz Smith shared, Last year was such a productive year for BBF.  I appreciate the diversity of the board and how we came together to affirm the statement on diversity all for the common good.”

Of note, at the February SAC meeting, BBF gathered feedback on integration in the context of the proposed changes to early childhood program administration within state agencies. BBF’s policy team is analyzing all data provided via focus groups, idea boards, and survey focused on integration in Vermont’s early childhood system and will be developing a summary that will be used to inform the baseline data collection and review for the systems analysis BBF will lead with support of a national expert/contractor, starting this Summer and Fall.

The next SAC meeting is on May 24th. Click here to register.

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