Author Archives: Dan French Presentation, October 8, 2016

I look forward to presenting at conferences with open source themes. My experience with Linux and open source software has greatly influenced my thinking as an educational leader. In education, “Open” refers to the larger historical narrative pertaining to enabling all people to become educated as a human right. This narrative begins with the idea of schooling. Public schooling was an important innovation in schooling, and now technology is letting us re-design the structure of schooling once again on behalf of opening or expanding educational opportunity. It is an exciting time to be a student of educational leadership!

Social Share Counters

Some Thoughts on Personalization vs. Customization

I draw the distinction between personalized learning which is a function of a student’s aspirations and customized learning which is an extension of differentiation, or finding ways to make a standards-based curriculum more digestible to the individual learner.

Personalization is more consistent with Progressive educational ideals which place the student at the center of the learning process. In school, the learning process is based on a relationship between the student, the teacher, and his or her parents. Personalization puts a renewed emphasis on the student-parent elements of this relationship by asking, “what are your hopes and dreams” and having this conversation inform the learning process and the purpose of education over time. In this relationship, the teacher represents accumulated knowledge (e.g. standards), the wisdom of the human experience, and society’s interest in seeing students develop a commitment to civic ethics.

For the first time in history we have the tools and technology to manage, and put more emphasis on, personal student learning aspirations as a design element of the schooling experience. In the US, however, we continue pursue education policies focused on customizing standardized learning experiences to meet narrow societal outcomes such as “college and career readiness.” Of course, we want all of our students to be successful. The point is they will most likely be successful if we help them reach their full potential through education which necessitates acknowledging who they are and who they want to be in the process of schooling itself.

Social Share Counters

SMC Summer Institute 2016: Designing Open Education Systems

I am looking forward to the next phase of my career beginning on July 1, 2016 when I start work at Saint Michael’s College as the Coordinator of the School Leadership Program.  I have capacity in my schedule at the College to run some sort of summer institute.  I evaluated three options to determine how my leadership and the resources of the College might be of the greatest service to the education community:

  1. Superintendent Leadership Academy – Previously, the College’s summer institute had been focused on meeting the needs of new superintendents.  This is an ongoing need but duplicates to a certain extent a program run by the Vermont Superintendents Association.
  2. Act 46 Merger Support – There is a large need to provide support to districts seeking to navigate the merger requirements of Act 46.  Act 46 is the most significant education policy initiative we have seen in Vermont a while, but in the end I thought the scope of this initiative was too broad for the focus of a summer institute.
  3. The Future of Education – I have been interested in the impact of technology on education for some time, and from my perspective not enough is being done to understand and describe how technology will affect the structure of our educational organizations.  We have some great programs in Vermont focused on individual educators (e.g. Snelling, Tarrant, and Rowland) but not much is being done to consider how school districts as systems need to change.  Also, I think Act 46 presents a historic opportunity to enact some system changes, and it would be an opportunity missed if all we do under Act 46 is to create a more efficient educational delivery system that enhances the obsolescence of the current model and inhibits our ability to redesign teaching and learning systems so that student learning aspirations at the center of what we do.

So I have decided on option #3.  The title of the institute will be “Designing Open Education Systems.” The idea would be to bring together leadership teams to explore the opportunity under Act 46 to adapt our schooling systems to the technological context. I anticipate several themes: personalizing student learning, creating development ecosystems for educators, visualizing data, and leveraging Open Education Resources. Participants would work on creating systems innovation plans to move their organizations forward in these areas. Community engagement would be a focus of these innovation plans. An outcome of the insitute would be the creation of a network of districts doing parallel work that could be expanded over time. The College and institute would serve as a convener and catalyst for this work.

The institute will be held at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT from August 9th – 11th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.  Two follow up sessions will be scheduled for later in the year.  The maximum capacity is 30 and preference will be given to teams.  Pricing and registration information will be out soon.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

Social Share Counters

Designing An Open Education System, May 9, 2016

Here is a presentation I recently made to the Chittenden South Supervisory Union leadership team, a group of very talented educational leaders.  The presentation gave me the opportunity to think more deeply about incorporating Open Education as a design element for systems change in school districts.

One of the participants asked if Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) are a “what” or a “how”.  Great question.  I think the answer is both.  I know my experience with Open Source software has had a significant impact on my thinking about the “how” of organizational leadership and organizational systems design.  I think if school districts embrace OER, it will change how they work in terms of curriculum and professional development.  These development processes will become more organic to the school system, and districts will be better able to close the gap between design and implementation while at the same time offering a more expansive curriculum to students.

Social Share Counters

Presentation at VSBIT Meeting, April 13, 2016

Here is the presentation I gave at a meeting for districts that recently voted to merge under Act 46. The title of the event was, “Your Community Voted Yes to Merger. Now What?”

Social Share Counters

VT Fest 2015 Presentations

Here are the presentations I gave at VT Fest in November 2015. VT Fest is Vermont’s statewide educational technology conference. A central theme of both of my presentations was how to build capacity among educators and districts to work together in the areas of curriculum and professional development.

The first presentation, Building Innovation Networks was a three-hour, preconference session designed for educational leaders to explore how innovation can be used as a management strategy in order to personalize student learning. The second session, Using OER: An Introduction to Gooru Learning covered Gooru Learning as an example of an LTI tool which can be used to remix Open Education Resources (OER) to expand learning opportunities for students.



Social Share Counters

BRSU Information Systems: Student Data Systems

This is the first in a series of presentations for school board members on various BRSU data systems. This presentation reviews the purpose and implementation of the district’s student information system Schoolmaster, and the district’s local data warehouse Tyler Pulse. This presentation was followed by live demonstrations of both systems using live data.

Social Share Counters

Research Paper on Ethics, Educational Leadership and Policy Governance

Here is a research paper I am presenting this spring at the annual conference of the Eastern Educational Research Association in Sarasota, FL and the New England Educational Research Organization in Portsmouth, NH.  I was pleased this paper was selected for presentation at both conferences by peer-review.

The topic comes from a part of my dissertation research that explored the experience of four Vermont superintendents using Policy Governance.  This paper focuses on a series of ethical dilemmas that surfaced as part of this research.


Social Share Counters

Report of the Superintendent of Schools, 2014

We fully implemented our model to personalize student learning in the 2013-2014 school year. This model includes Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) for students, NWEA MAP testing, and school board monitoring reports. Student PLPs were implemented as part of student-led parent conferences. NWEA MAP testing was administered three times during the year. This test is a computer-based test that measures student abilities in reading and math. Three school board monitoring reports were published based on NWEA MAP test results. An additional monitoring report was completed to give the boards an indication of student learning in the policy areas of Dispositions Towards Learning and Civic Ethics. This monitoring report was done in a single presentation and included examples from all of our schools. This presentation can be viewed online at

We implemented a new system to improve the transparency and efficiency of our school board governance processes. This system can be found online at This system gives community members the ability to search school board meeting agendas and minutes. Community members can also register on the website and subscribe to any board or committee in order to be notified when new meetings are posted or to receive meeting agendas through email.

The BRSU Board continued its work on achieving the mandatory centralization aspects of the Act 153 and Act 156. The Board concluded it was not more cost effective to centralization student bus transportation so it requested a waiver from the Agency of Education. The Agency awarded the BRSU a waiver from this requirement for one year. The Board intends to pursue another waiver this year since the underlying conditions that justified the initial waiver still exist. Basically, BRSU districts do not have intersecting bus routes which feed into a common middle school or high school so some of the conditions that make the centralization of student transportation work from an effectiveness standpoint in other districts do not exist in the BRSU.

The BRSU Board designed a task force process to examine how best to centralize special education services. Unlike transportation services, Vermont law explicitly requires this centralization to occur by making all special educators supervisory union employees. The BRSU Board approved a FY2016 budget which includes centralized special education costs. This new budget structure has significantly changed the portrayal of special education costs in local budgets with most of these costs now being organized into a series of local assessments paid to the BRSU. The actual implementation of centralized special education services is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 1, 2015, but this is contingent on employment concerns being resolved through the collective bargaining process.

A common theme to the BRSU approach to centralization of educational services has been logical thinking: where it has made sense to centralize we have done so aggressively. At the same time, we have not centralized services when centralization was determined to be more expensive or perceived to be less effective. We were challenged to maintain a disposition towards logical analysis when H.883 was passed by the Vermont House last year. Although this legislation did not become law and was a fairly legitimate response to the larger demographic, efficiency and equity challenges across Vermont’s system of public education, I feel it is important for our system to do its own due diligence on these issues in order to position our organization to be successful based on our specific local and regional circumstances. For example, in spite of the general decline in the number of pupils state wide, four of our six schools have had significant increases in enrollments over the last two years.

Thank you for your continued support of our schools. I continued to be heartened by the willingness of so many in our communities to support the future success of our children by investing in the high quality educational programs of our schools.

Social Share Counters