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James J. Appleton, Ph.D. is Director of Research and Evaluation in Gwinnett County Public Schools, GA. His research and publications focus on the measurement of student engagement. He has work experience in research and consultation within large urban and small rural school districts. He served as mentor and researcher within the Check & Connect school completion intervention and co-developed the Student Engagement Instrument (SEI).
Kay A. Augustine is the project director for School Climate Transformation at the Iowa Department of Education. She is the former manager of Youth & Adult Engagement for Eastern Carver County Schools in Minnesota where she initiated a blended model of Check & Connect in all secondary buildings using both Americorps Promise Fellows and existing staff as mentors. Kay is also the former project coordinator for Check & Connect at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, where she implemented an extended menu of training and consulting options for schools and organizations throughout the U.S. Kay received her doctorate in education leadership from Drake University and is passionate about strategies and programs that engage youth more fully and successfully in their lives and future.
Shelli Blazic is a School Social Worker with Great Prairie Area Education Agency (GPAEA) in Iowa and serves as Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) Coordinator for GPAEA. She has assisted with district-wide implementation of Check & Connect this 2014-2015 school year. As a PBIS state trainer, PBIS external coach for multiple sites, and instructor, she assists schools and districts in implementing the PBIS framework, including Check & Connect, as part of a multi-tiered system of support. Shelli has vast experiences and knowledge from her background in school social work, assessment and evaluation, parent/child advocacy, special education services, private therapy, and early childhood identification and interventions for at-risk populations. She has provided trainings and taught graduate and undergraduate coursework in varied subject areas including cultural proficiency, RESPECT training, sociology, and working with students with disabilities. She completed her Masters in Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.
Kimberly Boyd is the national vice president of Educational Foundations & Academic Innovation at the Boys & Girls Club of America. Kimberly joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in June of 2012 to lead the academic success team of the youth development department. In this capacity, Kimberly is responsible for developing strategy and programming to support more that 4,000 local Boys & Girls Clubs in their efforts to ensure all members globally competitive high school graduates, prepared for the college or career of their choice. A passionate leader in youth development, Kimberly has over 25 years of management experience in the nonprofit, research and government sectors, primarily focused on developing and managing programs for children in under-resourced communities.
Darcy Cabral graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She completed her master’s in Social Work and Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) at San Jose State University. She has practiced in the field of mentoring young adults for fourteen years including participating in the implementation of two education related youth mentor programs. Currently, she serves as the Program Coordinator at SRI International’s Center for Education and Human Services, Check & Connect Program, which was implemented in 2012. In addition to her work at SRI International, she also serves as a consultant conducting relationship building/mentoring trainings and workshops.
Dr. Sandra L. Christenson is the Birkmaier Professor of Educational Leadership, Professor of Educational Psychology, and faculty member in the School Psychology Program at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on interventions that enhance engagement at school and with learning for marginalized students with and without disabilities. She is particularly interested in the identification of family and school factors that facilitate student engagement and success in school and college and postsecondary readiness. She has been a principal investigator on several federally-funded projects in the areas of dropout prevention and family-school partnerships, including Check & Connect, which is in its 25th year of research. There are now four efficacy trials of Check & Connect occurring in large cities. Most recently, the Check & Connect program has been adapted for use in community college settings. Dr. Christenson publishes extensively; recently she co-edited the Handbook of Research on Student Engagement.
Richelle Dumas obtained her Master Degree in Social Work from Indiana University in 2000 and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2003. She provided treatment to adolescents and their families in Indianapolis Public Schools as a therapist and supervisor for a community mental health center for seven years. Since 2007, Richelle has been the Student Assistance Consultant at the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, where she works to build a continuum of mental health services as well as managing the implementation of district initiatives related to positive behavior interventions and supports.
Lael Engstrom, MSW is Project Director for Check & Connect through Florida's State Department Development Grant (SPDG) housed at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. She holds a Master's Degree in Administrative Social Work from the University of Oklahoma. Ms. Engstrom came to the University of South Florida from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she spent the majority of her career working within juvenile justice. She served as the Director of Truancy Diversion at Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, implementing Check & Connect for youth elementary through secondary. Ms. Engstrom was also an adjunct professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma, teaching Administrative Social Work and Policy.
Nicole Fabrikant is a researcher at SRI International’s Center for Education and Human Services group. She has been the project director for the U.S. Department of Education funded study: Efficacy Study of Check & Connect to Improve Student Outcomes. She is also a researcher on several Model Demonstration Coordination Center cohorts, among other projects. Before joining SRI, Fabrikant worked at the Rutgers University Center for Behavioral Health Services and Criminal Justice Research, where she managed a national federally funded study of drug and mental health courts. Before becoming a researcher, she worked in the criminal justice and mental health fields.
Jane Fields, Ph.D., has been evaluating educational programs and initiatives for almost 20 years. She recently joined the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) at the University of Minnesota. Her current projects include evaluating various STEM initiatives and conducting a needs assessment of school district needs in the areas of research, evaluation, data and assessment. She most recently worked in the Research, Evaluation and Assessment Department for the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), where she conducted internal evaluations. In MPS, she also worked closely with external evaluators and researchers to ensure the work met district requirements and needs. Prior to joining MPS, she was a Research Associate and founding director of The Evaluation Group at the Institute on Community Integration. She has also worked as an external evaluation consultant for a local school district. In this session, she will provide a district perspective on evaluating a program such as Check & Connect.
Jerome is a Twin Cities native who holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Boston University. He has over a decade of experience working with diverse populations in the social services and mental health fields. He is currently the coordinator of the MAP Project at Amicus-Volunteers of America, supporting juvenile offenders with disabilities transitioning from the Ramsey County Community Corrections facility serving youth in the Twin Cities area into school, employment, and community programs. MAP staff incorporates several proven models from the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, namely Check & Connect, the Expanding the Circle Transition Curriculum for Native American youth, and the Reintegration Framework Systems Planning Toolkit. Jerome is driven by his passion to propel the continuity of equity, peace, and restorative justice.
Lowana Greensky has been the Director of American Indian Education Supportive Services in St. Louis County (District 2142) in northern Minnesota for 23 years. She has a bachelor's degree in social work, Indian studies, elementary education, and bicultural education from St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. She holds licenses in bilingual/bicultural education. Currently Ms. Greensky is completing a master's degree in education from Hamline University. She has directed a project to implement Check & Connect with American Indian Home School Liaisons in northern Minnesota for the past two years. She also directs Culture-Based Arts Integration Curriculum, a federally funded project to integrate Ojibwe arts and culture into the K-8 classroom in her district.
Melissa (Chapman) Haynes, Ph.D., is the Coordinator for the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute and Director of Graduate Studies for the Evaluation Studies Certificate. She has been conducting program evaluation and research for over ten years in a variety of contexts, including PK-12 education, teacher professional development, public health, human services, philanthropy, and the arts. Melissa brings experience from serving as Associate Director of the Center for Evaluation and Assessment at The University of Iowa, a Senior Evaluator at the evaluation firm Professional Data Analysts, and as an independent consultant. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in program evaluation and psychology, at public and private institutions. She also contributed to the development and review of the most recent Program Evaluation Standards. She obtained her doctorate in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, with an emphasis in program evaluation, from The University of Iowa.
Judge Daniel Heath has been a Judge with the Allen Superior Court Civil Division in Fort Wayne, Indiana since January 1, 1997, and served for more than sixteen years as a Civil Court Judge. In April of 2013, Judge Heath transferred to the Family Relations Division and is now responsible for oversight of the Allen County Juvenile Center, a secure detention facility for juveniles in Fort Wayne. Judge Heath also helps to oversee hearings in juvenile delinquency, Title IV-D child support enforcement, paternity, custody, visitation and other contested matters. Judge Heath served as Chairman of the Civil Benchbook Committee and as a member of the Civil Instructions Committee for the Indiana Judicial Center. Knowing the consequences of dropping out of school from the court side, Judge Heath has been instrumental in helping Fort Wayne schools implement Check & Connect as a truancy prevention program.
David R. Johnson, Ph.D. is an Emma Birkmaier Professor of Educational Leadership and Director of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) in the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. Dr. Johnson's faculty appointment is in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development where he conducts research, teaches courses, and advises graduate students in evaluation studies and research methods. He has also been Principal Investigator of numerous research, training, and demonstration projects. His research interests include investigations of postschool outcomes, school completion, state systems change, cost-benefit analysis, and other policy-related research. Dr. Johnson has published more than 100 book chapters, journal articles, research monographs, technical reports, and products on topics concerning secondary education, special education, interagency collaboration, and other themes related to his research interests. His research and evaluation results have been used by U.S. Congressional committees, state legislatures, state education agencies, and other organizations.
Colleen Kaibel, M.A. Ed., is Minneapolis Public Schools’ Dropout Prevention Coordinator. Kaibel has twenty years of experience in truancy and dropout prevention focused on development, implementation, and evaluation of the Check & Connect model in both school and county implementation. Kaibel leads Check & Connect implementation in 26 Minneapolis Public Schools. Kaibel has been instrumental in training and technical support of the Check & Connect model across the country, as both a preventive measure to sustain student engagement and as an intervention response to attendance, academic performance, and student behavior in grades K-12.
Eileen Klemm, M.A., is the project coordinator for Check & Connect at the University of Minnesota. Currently, Ms. Klemm provides training nationally on the implementation of Check & Connect (C&C), supports Florida's State Personnel Development Grant in the scaling-up of C&C, and provides ongoing evaluation for the MAP Project, a federally funded model demonstration project which utilizes C&C with adjudicated youth. Prior to her work at the University, Ms. Klemm utilized her experience as a former school-based speech-language pathologist to provide statewide special education compliance training to school districts on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Education. Ms. Klemm is presently pursuing a Ph.D. in organizational leadership, policy, and development with an emphasis in evaluation studies at the University of Minnesota
Richard Krueger is professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. He is an internationally recognized authority on the use of focus group interviewing within the public environment. He has written 7 books, authored many journal articles and lectured at venues throughout the world on this topic. In addition he is a former president of the American Evaluation Association. He holds a PhD in research methods and holds academic appointments in education, epidemiology and public health. In his spare time he repairs his motorcycle, swaps stories with friends, and shops for tools at the local hardware store. Maybe you’ve seen him there.
Cammy Lehr, Ph.D. is the Project Manager for GradMinnesota, a multipartisan initiative of the Minnesota Alliance With Youth, Minnesota Department of Education and the Governor’s Office – with a goal of increasing the graduation rate for all Minnesota students to 90% by 2020. Prior to working with the Alliance, Cammy worked at the Minnesota Department of Education where she directed a federal grant promoting school completion and helped develop and disseminate a statewide early warning data system to prevent dropout. While at the University of MN, she researched and co-directed an application of Check & Connect. Dr. Lehr has also worked as a school psychologist and university instructor.
Darnell T. Logan is a native of the Twin Cities, who holds a bachelor’s degree and graduate degrees (M.A. in educational psychology and Ed.S. in school psychology) from the University of Minnesota. He is the Assistant Director for Coordinated Early Intervening Services in the DeKalb County School District in Stone Mountain, Georgia. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he worked at the Institution of Community Integration (U of MN) as a mentor for Check & Connect in Minneapolis Public Schools. He practiced as a school psychologist for over 10 year within the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia. He has fully implemented Check & Connect district-wide within two school districts in Georgia. In 2014-15, while serving as Coordinator of Psychological Services, he implemented Check & Connect in Atlanta Public Schools. Currently, he oversees the first-year implementation of Check & Connect in the DeKalb County School District for the 2015-16 school year. He also holds an educational leadership certification from the University of West Georgia and a doctorate in executive leadership from Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.
Ann S. Masten, Ph.D., LP, is a Regents Professor and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on understanding processes that promote competence and prevent problems in human development, with a focus on adaptive processes and resilience in the context of high cumulative risk, adversity, and trauma. She directs the Project Competence research on risk and resilience, including studies with normative populations and high-risk children and youth exposed to homelessness, war, natural disasters, migration, and other adversities. She is Past-President of the Society for Research in Child Development and currently serves on the Board of Children, Youth and Families for the U. S. National Academies, where she also co-chairs the international Forum on Investing in Young Children Globally. In 2014, she received the Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contributions to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association.
Andrea Matheson, Ph.D., is a School Psychologist at Heartland Area Education Agency 11 (Iowa) and assists in coordinating Iowa’s state-wide efforts to implement Check and Connect. In her role as a professional learning provider, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) trainer, and PBIS external coach for multiple sites, she assists schools to implement Check and Connect as part of a multi-tiered system of support. Andrea brings experiences from her background in assessment and evaluation, school psychology, and behavioral pediatrics. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at public and private institutions. She obtained her doctorate in School Psychology from Iowa State University.
Arthur B. Mui has been working as a ‘Check & Connect’ academic mentor in West Auckland New Zealand to students who are predominantly of Pacific Island decent. Previous to working as a Check and Connect mentor, Arthur has worked with other organizations mentoring high school students ensuring each student builds a solid foundation for the future so they can maximise their potential.
Dennis W. Olson Jr. is currently appointed as the Director of the Office of Indian Education for the Minnesota Department of Education. In this role, Dennis serves as the agency’s chief liaison in working with the eleven Minnesota Tribal nations and Twin Cities metro populations, and works in collaboration with multiple agencies on issues impacting Indian Education in Minnesota. Dennis, an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in American Indian Studies, Sociology, and Communications. He also holds Masters degrees in Liberal Studies (MLS) and Education (M.Ed.) from the University of Minnesota Duluth, both with a focus on Federal Indian policy and American Indian education.
Kent Pekel is an educator and administrator who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Prior to joining Search Institute in 2012, Kent served as the founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium and as the Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools. Kent has taught at the high school level in Minnesota and at the college level in China. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota.
Derek Peterson is a teacher, cultural creative, and activist who works on issues in education, community, leadership, and social change to affect children and youth. He guides efforts to merge young development research with the attitudes, cultures and values found within local communities. He gives workshops, lectures, and retreats in this country and abroad. He is the Co-Founder of the International Institute for Student Support and the Changing Children’s Worlds Foundation. He serves on the National School Climate Council, and as an Associate to the International Institute for Children’s Rights and Development in Canada. Derek's community engagement work has been highlighted in the Harvard Education Review. In 2001 he was recognized as the "Prevention Professional of the Year" and "Educator of the Year" in Alaska.
When he was recently promoted to serve as dean of students at the Burnsville Alternative High School, Stephen was also named as a coordinator of ISD 191’s targeted services programs, which includes coordinator of the district’s Check & Connect program. A graduate of the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Stephen spent the majority of the past seven years in the classroom as a biology teacher at Burnsville High School. Along the way he has earned his masters of educational leadership, education specialist, and principal licensure from the University of St. Thomas. In addition to his classroom service, Stephen brings extensive administrative experience having served as acting full-time administrator, Check & Connect supervisor and mentor, curriculum lead, mediator of staff-student conflicts, coordinator of credit recovery programs, and freshmen baseball coach.
Becky manages targeted intervention programs including Check & Connect Pathways Opportunity Youth, an Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions initiative, Check & Connect research implementation study, and other locally developed attendance and school engagement programs. She has worked for more than 30 years in education policy analysis, advocacy, and program development, serving as Policy Analyst to the Board of Education, Legislative Programs Analyst for SDUSD, as well as a Field Director for U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, and Jim Costa, a Member of the California State Assembly. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, Political Science, from San Diego State University.
Promoting Cognitive Engagement
Angie Pohl, Ph.D., has dedicated her career in education to ensuring that every child graduates from high school prepared for success in college, career, and life. As an Assistant Principal at Pillsbury Elementary in Minneapolis Public Schools, she supports the development and sustainment of systems that provide equitable learning opportunities and outcomes for all students. Through her past work with the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (U of M), she conducted research and training on Check & Connect and student engagement. And as a school psychologist and teacher, Dr. Pohl worked directly with students to support their school success.
Amy L. Reschly, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia. She is Editor-Elect of School Psychology Review. Her areas of expertise and research include engagement and dropout prevention and working with families and schools to promote student success.
Brisa is a Check & Connect mentor for San Diego Unified School District, Office of Dropout Prevention. She holds her bachelor of arts degree in child development and family studies from California State University - Long Beach. Brisa has served in the public and non-profit sectors working with youth in various capacities for approximately 15 years. Brisa has also volunteered as a mentor to students considered “at-risk” and children of prisoners. Prior to her work with Check & Connect in San Diego, Brisa was a cessation specialist in a hospital for youth and adults, in addition to working as a school community liaison in Orange County, California.
Daniel N. Samuta has been serving as a Check & Connect academic mentor since the program started in West Auckland, New Zealand six months ago. Previous to working as a Check & Connect mentor Daniel was working as a teacher in Youth Justice North (Youth Prison) based in South Auckland and a Manager of an Alternative Education centre which provides basic education with a focus on increasing attendance to students who have been excluded from main stream schools.
Dr. Sandy Schmitz has provided special education services at the local and state level. As Director of Special Education for a regional entity providing services to 33 school districts, she provided oversight for special education instructional and related service providers. Dr. Schmitz has been responsible for leading major initiatives at the national, state and local level. She currently works with state, district and building level teams in conducting data analysis to improve outcomes of students with disabilities. This work includes identifying root causes to poor performance and the best evidence-based practice to address the root causes.
Daisy Loretta Smith, PhD is director of Education Programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is responsible for managing the Be Great: Graduate Ninth Grade Cohort, a program that tracks the mentoring of 9th grade students as they transition into high school. Daisy also contributes to the development and implementation of Summer Brain Gain, BGCA’s national initiative designed to prevent summer learning loss. She obtained her doctorate in the School of Education with a primary focus on the synergy of engagement, course design, and students’ values and beliefs. As a consultant, Daisy started an elementary writing program for an online global school where she developed and designed curricula. She is a published author and her passion and research for personalized learning is on display at the Miami Children’s Museum.
Karen J. Storm, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) part of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. She was a professor for eleven years at the University of Utah, the University of Minnesota, and Lehigh University. She is an affiliate faculty member at the U of MN in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, where she teaches in the Evaluation Studies program. Dr. Storm is Principal Investigator on a subcontract with SRI on an Institute on Education Sciences (IES) funded efficacy study of Check & Connect. She recently completed an evaluation of Minnesota’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Expansion Project. Dr. Storm has worked in education for 30 years. Her interests include diversity policies, dropout prevention, and early childhood care and education.
Ms. Peg Sullivan, M.Ed. is the Director of Working with the Experts (WWE) for Occupational and Physical Therapists and the Director of Florida’s State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG). Her major duties and responsibilities include providing direction, implementation oversight, fiscal management and program evaluation for these grant funded programs. The SPDG is a five year initiative to support increased graduation rates for students with disabilities via the use of two evidenced practices, Check & Connect and the Strategic Instruction Model™. Working across 15 schools districts statewide to provide professional development, ongoing coaching, technical assistance and fiscal supports in middle/high school feeder patterns the project seeks to increase capacity for schools and districts to support graduation, increased proficiency and decreased dropout rates.
W. Carl Sumi, Ph.D., is a Senior Education researcher in the Education Division at SRI International. He conducts research to address emotional and behavioral disabilities among children and youth. Dr. Sumi is the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several randomized controlled trials investigating the efficacy and effectiveness of various school-based behavioral and mental health interventions spanning the age range from elementary to high school aged youth. Dr. Sumi has worked with families and children with emotional and behavioral disabilities in a variety of capacities for over 25 years, from direct service in the classroom to research and statewide policy development in the fields of education and mental health.
Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., is co-director of the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Susman-Stillman’s interests focus on promoting strategies to improve the quality of early care and education care in home- and center-based settings, meeting the diverse needs of the early care and education workforce, and enhancing the impact of assessment in early care and education programs. Most recently, she has been working on issues to address access to early care and education programs.
Ms. Swoboda earned her bachelor of arts degree from Luther College and both her master of arts and Educational Specialist degrees from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota. She began her teaching career as a special education teacher at Chaska Middle School West in 2004. After teaching for five years, she became the Eastern Carver County School District intervention coach, and subsequently the district special education coordinator. Ms. Swoboda is now administrative dean at Chanhassen High School where she manages student attendance and discipline; coordinates Check & Connect, iTeam, and PBIS; and works with students and staff on a daily basis to provide the best educational experience possible.
Kathryn Szwed-Thompson has been working with special education students in the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township for the past 17 years. Her roles in Pike throughout her varied career have included: instructing in self-contained and resource classrooms and, most recently, as a District Behavior Consultant. Kathryn was also an adjunct professor at Butler University instructing special education courses from 2004-2008. Since 2010, Kathryn has been the Pike District Behavior Consultant providing support and collaboration for general and special education students. In addition to her current responsibilities, Kathryn is a Doctoral Candidate in the Special Education Program at Purdue University.