"Today's Vision, Tomorrow's Reality" | SMI speaks at Mentoring Conference


SMI’s Lori Norris Jordon spoke at the 2013 Northeast Regional Youth Mentoring Conference, held in Hartford, CT, where over 250 practitioners, researchers, and other mentoring stakeholders were brought together.  This year’s conference theme, “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality”, brought to the forefront a greater focus on the future outcomes and impact that a caring adult can bring into the life of a young adult.

Lori’s presentation, “Graduation Guru, A City-School-Community Coalition” recommended a step-by-step unique approach that will create sustainable adult advocate systems across the community that can inspire a young person to realize their strengths and achieve their fullest potential. 

“Every young person can benefit from having a caring adult in their life. This is especially true for those who struggle academically, socially and emotionally. While academic mentors provide tremendous value to youth who are struggling academically, we also need adults who focus on the social-emotional needs of students. Gurus are members of the community who are invested in youth and their future. In order to offer this kind of support communities must have a systemic way to tap into the assets and availability of a set of adults readily available when called upon to provide this critical intervention.”  No small task, yet something we all can do when we create partnership approaches to youth issues.


Learning & Leadership Exchange


On October 1, 2013, SMI facilitated a statewide Leadership & Learning Exchange. ” No Turnaround Without Wraparound”  which included opportunities for school staff, community partners, government officials and related efforts to focus on systemic strategies that deal successfully with the non-academic barriers kids have to learning. This inspiring set of leaders (including Dr. Alan Ingram, Deputy Commissioner of MA ESE, Eric Gordon, CEO/Superintendent of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District,  Joshua Laplante, Principal of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island and Ross Levanto, Senior Vice President at Schwartz Communications in Boston) provided practical examples, challenging ideas, and a critical focus on improving performance for students across Massachusetts. 


SMI and the Workforce Education Institute at Bristol Community College


Great news! SMI has begun working with the newly launched Workforce Education Institute (WEI) at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA. SMI is providing strategic planning facilitation, coaching, and ongoing guided support to BCC leadership and staff aligning division efforts within the new Institute. SMI most recently provided a leadership training on “Aligning Mission and Behavior for High Quality Customer Service”, which set a course for collaboration across WEI.

WEI, at Bristol Community College, is the one-stop contact for BCC’s comprehensive training, consulting, and pre-employment services for individuals, organizations and companies. Learn more at


The MassGrad Coalition Challenge: Collaborating as a Community to Decrease Dropout Rates


The MassGrad Coalition Challenge - teams representing four communities (Worcester, New Bedford, Franklin County and Malden) - participated in a day-long training event hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and facilitated by School & Main Institute. A special group within the larger MassGrad district network, these four communities are focused on decreasing the dropout rate and increasing graduation rates using the power of school-community collaboration, rather than asking schools to address the dropout challenge alone. We believe the strongest responses to education, health, employment, and other community issues take hold when stakeholders collaborate. Easy to understand but actually pretty hard to do!

At this training event, Coalition Challenge teams analyzed the functions of collaborative infrastructure and how they can organize themselves to get their work done - again, no small task when working across organizations rather than managing within a single organization. Teams reviewed the development of their coalition to date and used SMI’s Infrastructure for Powerful Partnerships tool to guide their thinking:

  • Where are we strong?
  • Who do need to engage?
  • Who will outreach?
  • Challenges and potential responses?

For more information about SMI's Powerful Partnerships training support, click here.



Rhode Island Foundation hosts Parent Academy Info Session with School & Main Institute


On March 26th, The Rhode Island Foundation brought together a unique gathering of educators, community-based practitioners and policy makers from across Rhode Island to learn about an effective and proven community-wide and school-based strategy that supports meaningful parent and family engagement: Parent Academies.

SMI uses a uniquely collaborative approach to developing a Parent Academy, where the community as a whole serves as the "Academy campus" and organizations work together as a collaborative network to deliver a wide (and strategic!) range of educational resources, coursework and other oppoortunities to build the skills, knowledge and know-how of parents and families to become full partners in their child’s education.

Andy Beck from SMI spoke to what the collective research tells us about the impact of this work: “Family involvement and student success are linked.  When parents are engaged in meaningful ways that provide opportunities for their own development and the development of their families and their children, student success goes up.  Parent Academies is a new tool that is showing promising results in engaging parents, developing effective communication and collaboration between school and home. Results that students begin to demonstrate through increased attendance, decreased behavioral issues and higher achievement.”  

Representatives from Westerly Public Schools and Springfield Public Schools shared their experiences and the path to building an Academy in their community.  While the two districts are vastly different – small and rural vs. large and urban – the positive impact on parents, families and students has been the same.  Academies can be developed at both the local level and district level.  Whether regionally focused or citywide, size doesn’t matter.  It’s the partnership and collective ownership of school and community stakeholders that make an Academy work. And this works for our children, our parents and our community! 

In a Nutshell

Founded in 1985 at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management, School & Main Institute (SMI) has grown into a nationally recognized, independent non-profit training and partnership development organization that has worked with organizations and state agencies in more than 35 states.


School & Main Institute staff and faculty have years of expertise as organizational leaders, program developers, trainers, and facilitators in the fields of education, workforce preparation, youth and community development.

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