The Summits of Our Discontent…Putting Plans Into Action Through Summits and Collaboration.

SummitWhat exactly does the word of summit mean?  I asked myself this after reflecting on the 4th Western Sussex Summit that was held a Woodbridge High School, December 1, 2017.  




1. the highest point of a hill or mountain.

synonyms: (mountain) top, peakcrestcrownapextipcaphilltop

“the summit of Mount Washington
a meeting between heads of government.
“a summit conference”
synonyms: meetingnegotiationconference, talk(s), discussion

“the next superpower summit”

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 10.37.16 AM

I also realized summits can be the starting place for aspects of education we are unhappy with and to pull together and solve.

I instantly revert back to a gathering of minds we had at The American School Foundation – the Google Summit on August 31st and September 1, 2012 – and I thought – HUGE SUCCESS.  

Then another success story was the ASOMEX Tri Conference at ASF, September 23, 2011 – September 25, 2011.  Another HUGE success.

Recently the Western Sussex Summit again, was a successful event on many levels and this is why.

ANYTIME you figure out that all levels of educated contributors, together have a better chance of solving, recognizing, and formulating ideas to put into action for better results, you have a better step forward.  Divisions between administrators, teachers, librarian media specialists, paras, nurses, even substitutes, and including all – I think it makes a drastic impact and then to carry it one step further, DO something more than generate great ideas, implement them maybe I think the “exit ticket” for each summit is to show how ideas and plans implemented have been taken to a first step to be implemented, I like that idea.

Before I delve into the highlights from this years Western Sussex Summit, I wanted to share a story I thought had a direct connection.  Listening to this podcast, on how a fans’ football ticket was donated to teens and police, during the whole kneeling to recognize an important issue at hand, the fan had a great GREAT point.  Why did not the owner, use their assets, their stadiums to do one of the greatest PR events ever and to benefit the community – combine the parties that are at conflict but invest in the younger generations to reeducate and invest in solutions to the problems between police and soon to becoming adult generations?  I thought filling the seats of stadiums would bring an amazing positive effect to the controversy of killings, violence, and turmoil in communities, and guess who would be at the head of this, with an amazing community investment (and yes still making a profit?) The owners of every team.  This is one of the biggest missed opportunities owners ever had to counter and offer a solution to this issue, I loved the solution, and was so sad to see this was not acted upon by owners of every football team.

Fast forward to our educational summits.  With every technological, social trauma, educational, and leadership conference, you have the chance to act on the same thought process, let’s take topics that affect our communities and find ways to take the workshops, meet all educators on differing levels, positions, roles,  and walk away with tangible products we can implement to ignite new programs to meet the needs of our immediate populations.  This can help refocus the various government levels to understand the needs for funding and refocus on bettering the status of or educational system, AND to build a larger fan investment base in education, to pressure more and better changes for education, involving the NEA, the overall educational system, and have summits being more than ideas being generated but ideas being put into action at these summits!

Back to the Western Sussex Summit – Coming back to the states after six years, I refocused on the Socio-Emotional Needs of students in a school district, and this helped me realign the population and needs that were hovering about us as educators every day, and present in every students’ life.  This is so easy to forget in lieu of our own preparation and planning every day, one major theme of the summit itself.  

Before the keynote speakers, it was pretty informative to hear from Delaware Governor John Carney’s wife, Tracey Carney.    With her constant involvement in education, it was refreshing to see politics having a first-hand impact and response to the needs of students and education rather than a voice not familiar with local needs of what education is desperate for.  Dealing with ways to confront the hunger and homelessness issue in Delaware, it is again, refreshing to see someone involved in politics willing to be active in finding new alternatives to providing for these needs.

The keynote speakers, Kristin Souers and Pete Hall, authors of the book Fostering Resilient Learners,  were really important to setting the tone of the summit.  Normally, Key notes are maybe an hour?  This was a LONG key-note in ranging to about 3 1/2 hours, and when I saw that on the schedule I was like Nooooooo.   Okay I get it, we are educators, we are having a PD day and I mean come one 3 1/2 hours?  PAIN!  But in actuality, the overly bubbly attitude Kristin carried with her, helped fight that steady wall of educators of all positions fighting to be present on a PD day AND being early morning, and I felt that the keynotes were successful.  it is difficult to box in what the socio-economic trauma needs are, and for new teachers, there is an idea but the DEPTH of how this affects learners, and the effectiveness of educators on populations of students in a DRASTICALLY changing educational world (HECK, it has changed almost 100% percent sent I became involved in education in 1997! )  – the depth of info was needed – and despite being a pretty decent length of a key note, the importance of this mindset was pretty difficult to ignore. 

Much was broken down in that key-note, from the definition of Trauma, to the highly effective awareness of the ACES study, to the 4 I’s of Trauma Sensitive Approaches (Introducing, Ignorant, Informed, Invested) – Where is your school in these levels of measurement regarding Trauma? – 

ONE AWESome tool was receiving the hand model of the brain, from Daniel Siegel, to connect parenting and to the needs of children.  LOVE THIS!  Connecting the brain, the mind (different) and relationships, and he does it well!

All of these tools add to the overall considerations and tools educators need to fully meet students that are surrounded by trauma and recalibrate for success.

Workshops set in and whoa, a lot to choose from!     Brochure 2017emailvsn (1)

Two really stuck out to me, “Self-Care for Educators” by Debby Boyer and “I ain’t listening to You and I ain’t Learning From You! Engaging Boys in Education and Counseling” from Julius Mullen Sr. Ed. D., LPCMH, Julius Mullen Jr, Juwan Mullen.  

Without giving you every single scrap of info they presented, which I could, (and is a symbol of a god PD session when you can remember these aspects after a holiday!) – the main aspects that rose to the top –

I never realize enough how taking care of myself reflects back to the populations I need to serve and benefit as well, and this session by Debby Boyer helped do just that.  Recognizing the connection to Mindfulness from ASF as one, but a major technique, was one of many tools she emphasized in showing, how to recognize, organize, and departmentalize the priorities of taking care of you, personally, involved and tied to the educational field – crucial.

The second workshop (and I noticed the first workshop was packed!) was presented by the Mullen family, all of which I have come to know being in Seaford at Seaford High School.  I liked, before they spoke, the fact that their experiences, cemented the concepts as they lived in, as they grew from students, to a family, to experiences they currently had in education.  This made more of a statement to everyone before they even said anything.  Loved.  Their insights into what would and should be very basic guidelines, helped create an awareness of what students feel and need in any given day, and how those needs can be met without sacrificing the very things that make you, you as an educator.

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 12.47.55 PMI felt from the sessions and speakers present, in order to make the changes and challenges we are seeing needing addressed in our communities, we need to be proactive and make the necessary steps of how we implement what we obtain from workshops, summits, etc to climb the very mountains that can only be conquered by our very active steps t enacting what we can create as interventions.  This well-organized and thought out cry for how we need to intervene our students’ lives, with the organization of Dr. Michele Marinucci, Ms Kylie Cross, and the whole Student Services Staff,

helped bring vendors from the community such as Barnes & Noble, as well as over 6 other representatives of the community, emphasized the needs we need to breach, of those of community and our students’ needs.  I felt as if the power of the ideas and plans generated at summits would be the ultimate game changer if shown from the summits, how all attending members were going to bring these ideas to the reality inside, and outside our classrooms every day.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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2 Responses to The Summits of Our Discontent…Putting Plans Into Action Through Summits and Collaboration.

  1. Kylie Cross says:

    The participation by educators like yourself, who attended with a willingness to engage in and embrace the thoughts and ideas shared at the Summit, is what helped to make it a huge success! Thank you for this thoughtful and relevant blog post.

  2. Harry Brake says:

    Thanks so much for making that opportunity available!

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