South Carolina Early Childhood
Inclusion Conference

SCPI is excited to announce that we are hosting our first annual Early Childhood Inclusion Conference!

Date: October 19, 2022
Time: 8:00AM - 4:30PM
Location: R2i2 (763 Fashion Dr. Columbia, SC 29229)
Price: $35

This conference is designed to support early childhood leadership teams in building program capacity to increase inclusive preschool practices. The sessions will provide opportunities for participants to learn about evidence-based practices that:

  • foster high-quality inclusive early childhood programming
  • support successful early childhood transitions
  • promote the delivery of instruction to preschoolers in their least restrictive environment
  • enhance team collaboration and strategic planning

The SC Early Childhood Inclusion conference is intended to support districts and leadership teams at all levels. The target audience for this exciting professional development experience are administrators & early childhood educators from districts throughout the state, as well as community partners interested in participating on early childhood leadership teams!

Have questions about what a district preschool leadership team looks like and who should attend? Learn more about district leadership teams here!

Conference Schedule

8:00-8:45 Registration
8:45-9:00 Opening Remarks
9:00-10:00 Keynote Address

Inclusion and Belonging: Moving from Where to Why
Dr. Jen Newton

The push for inclusion in early childhood systems can get derailed by funding streams, systemic barriers, and siloed training/licensure. But, at the center, is the human and civil right for children to belong: to belong in families, to belong in community, and to belong in schools and classrooms. We will consider ways we as the adults who cultivate the environment and facilitate the community can build belonging in all our spaces.

10:00-10:15 Break
10:15-11:45 Breakout Sessions

Dream Big, Plan Well: An Introduction to PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) Planning
Presenters: Melissa Griffin & Jennifer Harrist

Workshop Description:

Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) is a participatory planning process that enables individuals to create a shared vision and develop the plan to accomplish it. Our modified PATH process applies the same techniques to leadership, district, and other teams to allow them to dream big and plan well. In this session, participants will learn about the steps in the PATH process, interact with the initial stages and draft their big dreams for promoting inclusion.

About the Presenters:

Melissa Griffin serves as the Technical Assistance Coordinator with SCPI. In this role, she facilitates the implementation of a tiered framework of supports for early childhood specialists and coordinates service delivery for districts working with SCPI to improve early childhood outcomes and increase access for preschool children with IEPs. Melissa has over 18 years of experience in the field of early intervention, including leadership and program development. Melissa began her career as an Early Intervention Specialist and progressed into the role of Assistant Director of Early Intervention. Prior to joining SCPI, Melissa served as the Director of Medical Rehabilitation for a pediatric therapy program serving children enrolled in Part C of IDEA and SC Medicaid.

Jennifer Harrist serves as the Pyramid Model Coordinator for the Pyramid PIECES State Leadership Team (SLT), a cross-collaborative initiative that promotes social emotional well-being for infants, young children, and their families. In this role, she coordinates & facilitates the work of the SLT and supports the work of the professional development network as they provide training and program coaching to implement the Pyramid Model with fidelity. Jennifer has over 7 years of experience in K-12 education. She holds a M.Ed. and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research with experience in social-emotional learning, constructivist learning environments, and whole child education.

Building Effective Teams: Problem-Solving Common Problems
Presenter: Dr. Jane Everson

Workshop Description:

Teams can ease the work of professionals and enhance services for children and youth with disabilities. Teamwork, however, is hard work! This session will provide an overview of team development strategies and offer participants the opportunity to discuss and problem-solve common team issues.

About the Presenter:

Jane Everson, PhD has provided training to interagency teams addressing the needs of children and youth with disabilities for 30 years across the United States. She has authored 6 textbooks, and more than 100 articles and manuals on the topic.

It’s Time to Count the Children: The Childhood Outcomes Summary—What, Why, When, and How
Presenters: Sherri Evans and Angie Neal

Workshop Description:

There are federal and state requirements for collection of information on three specific child outcomes known by school districts as the Childhood Outcomes Summary. This session will explore the three outcomes and participants will understand age-expected child development, age expectations for child functioning within the child’s culture, key steps in measuring childhood outcomes, and how to use the rating scale.

About the Presenters:

Sherri Evans, M.A., CCC-SLP, is the 619 Coordinator at the South Carolina State Department of Education. She came to the State Department in July 2022. Sherri has a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Her work experiences also include serving as a Speech-Language Pathologist in South Carolina’s public schools as well as with BabyNet/Early Intervention, and she served for many years as the Lead Speech-Language Pathologist for School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties. Sherri’s professional interests include advocating for children with disabilities and their families, inclusive settings for students, as well as communication, early language, and literacy.

Angie Neal is the SLP Contact and Education Associate for Early Language and Literacy for the South Carolina State Department of Education. She is a member of ASHA's School Issues Advisory Board, graduate of ASHA’s inaugural School-Based Leadership Development Program, a board member with the State Education Agency Communication Disabilities Council, published author, previous adjunct faculty for the University of South Carolina, previous board member for the SC International Dyslexia Association and a LETRS facilitator for SC. She is also the recipient of the Nancy McKinley Leadership Award (Ohio) and the Rolland J. Van Hattum Award (South Carolina). She has worked in both adult rehabilitation, pediatric outpatient rehabilitation, and school settings, but her passion is helping children achieve academic success! Mrs. Neal is a frequent presenter across the United States on a variety of speech and language topics.

Supporting Special Populations
Presenters: Birley Wright & Sara Garrett

Workshop Description:

The South Carolina Department of Education follows the Perkins V mandates to serve special populations and document the achievement of each group for career and technical education (CTE). Perkins V identifies nine student subgroups as special populations, including individuals with disabilities, homeless individuals, and youth in the foster care system, among others. But we know that successful student support begins in early childhood. Districts are responsible for providing support services to students who are members of special populations, which can include: curriculum modification, equipment modification, supportive personnel, and instructional aids and devices. Join us to learn more about special populations, as well as local resources & supports to address their needs and promote access and success for all students.

About the Presenters:

Birley Wright is the McKinney-Vento State Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Education and holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a master’s in education with an emphasis in Community Agency Counseling. Her work and advocacy on behalf of children and families spans over 25 years. Her passion for early childhood development and education coupled with her fierce passion for child abuse prevention has guided her to work in the areas of child wellbeing for much of her career. She is an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Master Trainer in the state of SC and a member of SC Master Cadre trainers for the Pyramid Model for social emotional development. She is mom to two amazing young adult daughters. In her free time, Birley enjoys cycling with her husband, walking her two rescue dogs, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and relaxing by any body of water.

Sara Garrett, M.Ed, is an education associate on the Family Community and Partnership (FC&P) team in the Office of Special Education Services (OSES) at the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE). In addition to Mrs. Garrett’s work with the FC&P team, her area of focus includes students with disabilities in special populations, i.e., students with disabilities who are also multilingual learners, in foster care, homeless, private school settings, and residential treatment facilities. Mrs. Garrett is a former special education teacher, general education English teacher, integrated technology specialist, and administrator with certifications in each domain.

11:45-12:45 Lunch
12:45-2:15 Breakout Sessions

Community Collaboration through an Itinerant Service Delivery Model
Presenters: Dr. Kate Ascetta & Dr. Heather Googe

Workshop Description:

Join us to learn how to increase collaboration among stakeholders to serve young children in community settings using an itinerant model. We'll address common barriers to service delivery in the community and share information about available supports within South Carolina for successful implementation.

About the Presenters:

Kate Ascetta is an assistant professor of Early Childhood Special Education in the Department of Educational Studies. Before pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, she worked in variety of settings with young children and early childhood teachers. She began as an early childhood special education teacher for young children who had experienced trauma. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she was an assistant principal at a Head Start program. Dr. Ascetta's research interests include the development and assessment of effective instructional practices, specifically online, that promotes professional growth in teachers and leads to increased language and communication skills in young children. She studies interventions designed to promote language-rich classrooms environments and increase the sustained use of evidence-based practices in early childhood classrooms. Dr. Ascetta also has an interest in developing equitable education practices aimed to close the opportunity to gap experienced by some young children.

Heather Googe is a Research Assistant Professor at the Yvonne & Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center at the University of South Carolina and is the Principal Investigator for three projects related to including children with disabilities in early childhood settings across sectors. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of early childhood special education and holds a PhD in Special Education from the University of South Carolina. Her research and professional interests include professional development to support inclusive practices among early childhood teachers, developmental screening practices of early childhood teachers, and the development and implementation of cross sector professional development systems in early childhood.

Partnerships Promoting School Readiness for ALL
Presenters: Mary Brooks & Beth Montgomery

Workshop Description:

Lexington Two’s Preschool Inclusion Team has developed community partnerships with several local child care providers and early childhood service providers in our community for the past 5 years. Come hear how we’ve worked to remove the concept of “our children” vs “their children” and increased the sharing of information between our community partners and the school district to support the transition into school.

About the Presenters:

Mary Brooks is Director of Parenting and Early Childhood Programs in Lexington School District 2, where she has worked since 1994. Mary graduated from Clemson University with a BA in Early Childhood and received a Master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in elementary school counseling. She is also certified in school administration. Mary has served in the role of classroom teacher, school counselor, school administrator, and district administrator in Lexington District 2. In her various roles, she has worked with children from many different backgrounds and many differentiated needs. Additionally, Mary currently serves as Board Chair for Lexington County First Steps.

Beth Montgomery is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) in Lexington School District 2, where she has worked since 2001. Beth graduated from of Charleston and earned her Master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 2001. Since 2001, Beth has maintained her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech and Hearing Association and her SLP license from South Carolina Board of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR). She has served as Lead SLP for Lex2 since 2008, and she is a member of Lex2’s Preschool Screening Clinic Team, Dysphagia Team, and Assistive Technology Team. Additionally, Beth was appointed in 2015 by Governor McMaster to serve on LLR’s SLP-Audiology Board, and currently serves as Vice-Chair.

Enlaces: Diversity and Inclusion When Considering Multilingual Learners
Presenter: Lydia Carnesale

Workshop Description:

As educators strive to be inclusive of all learners in their care, it is important to understand the unique growth and development of multilingual learners. This session will detail how multilinguals construct their world and how to connect their home language and culture to classroom curriculums, teaching, and learning. Join to learn how to create “enlaces” or begin to weave community family partnerships to support multilingual learners in inclusive settings.

About the Presenter:

Lydia Carnesale is a mother of 4 children, finishing her doctorate degree with UofSC in the College of Education. She works for the SC Department of Education as a Learning Engagement Coach supporting families in understanding best practice and collaboration in developing their child's early literacy skills. Her interests include supporting and advocating for her Latino Community in maintaining and recognizing their diverse home language and literacy practices.

Inclusion Means That We Believe Everyone Can Learn Here!
Presenter: Leslie Holt

Workshop Description:

Inclusion within early childhood settings is made possible when everyone is valued & engaged. In inclusive settings, educators and families work together to promote all children’s development. Come and learn about a variety of strategies to promote children’s access to and participation in all activities. The session will include participant-engaged activities such as group sharing, video reflections, and practice opportunities.

About the Presenter:

Leslie Holt has spent the last 15 years working within the field of education in various capacities ranging from teacher within Preschool programs to Director within child care settings for over 10 years. He has his Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Master’s in Early Childhood Education, Teaching Leadership. Leslie currently serves as Senior Manager of Social Media Marketing with Bright Horizons, a child care company. Within this role, Leslie has the opportunity to collaborate and establish partnerships with contributors within the field of education to promote parent education opportunities and highlight best practices towards creating culturally inclusive environments within high quality programs. Leslie currently resides in Columbia, SC and is a proud cat Dad to Veronica Mars.

2:15-2:30 Break
2:30-4:00 Breakout Sessions

One Block at a Time: Building Evidence-Based Inclusive Practices Using the Building Blocks Framework
Presenters: LaDrica Jones & Dana Bennett

Workshop Description:

The methods and strategies in this session are based on the Building Blocks Framework for Teaching Preschoolers with Special Needs. This framework provides evidence-based practices that help teachers to be more effective and enhance the inclusion of young children with disabilities in community-based classrooms and early learning programs. This session is appropriate for all early childhood education teachers, special education teachers, and anyone who supports early childhood programs.

About the Presenters:

LaDrica Jones is a Technical Assistance Specialist for South Carolina Partnerships for Inclusion. She earned a bachelor's degree from Coker University in Sociology and a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina. LaDrica’s goal is to increase evidence-based practices in early childhood and early childhood special education. She believes that all children are best served when evidence-based best practices are used with fidelity.

Dana Bennett holds a M.Ed. and has 18 years of experience teaching in the public school system. She has also served as a family child care teacher and an Inclusion Specialist. Dana currently serves as a Technical Assistance Specialist with SCPI. In this position, she provides training and technical assistance to districts to increase their use of evidence-based practices that support the inclusion of young children with disabilities in early learning programs.

Bridging Supports: Everything You Need to Know about Transition from Part C to Part B
Presenters: Sherri Evans & Jennifer Buster

Workshop Description:

This session will focus on the key components of early childhood transitions. Part C to B transition refers to children who are transitioning from early intervention (Part C) to early childhood special education (Part B) prior to the child’s third birthday. This session will discuss how to support a consistent implementation of effective transition practices.

About the Presenters:

Sherri Evans, M.A., CCC-SLP, is the 619 Coordinator at the South Carolina State Department of Education. She came to the State Department in July 2022. Sherri has a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Her work experiences also include serving as a Speech-Language Pathologist in South Carolina’s public schools as well as with BabyNet/Early Intervention, and she served for many years as the Lead Speech-Language Pathologist for School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties. Sherri’s professional interests include advocating for children with disabilities and their families, inclusive settings for students, as well as communication, early language, and literacy.

Jennifer R. Buster, M.Ed., is the IDEA, Part C/BabyNet Director at the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services where she has been employed for the last 4.5 years. Prior to that she worked as the Director of Children’s Services at the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs for 16 years. She has almost 28 years of experience in the Developmental Disabilities field at both the state and local level, serving children birth to twenty-one in both community and residential settings. In the past she served on the State Child Fatality Advisory Committee, the Safe Sleep Coalition, as well as numerous statewide children’s committees. She earned her bachelor’s and her M.Ed. from the University of South Carolina.

The Pyramid Model: Bringing it to Life
Presenters: Nichole Hudgens & Ellyn Andrews

Workshop Description:

Participants will explore the many benefits of Pyramid Model as a means to decrease challenging behaviors in the classroom and reduce suspension and expulsion rates amongst our earliest learners. We will introduce participants to the classic tools and Pyramid Model strategies that support implementation in the classroom. Join us to learn how these strategies can prepare you to explore Program-Wide Pyramid Model Implementation.

About the Presenters:

Nichole Hudgens serves as the Pyramid Model Implementation Coach with SCPI’s Pyramid PIECES team. In this role, Nichole supports early childhood programs within South Carolina’s school districts to build their capacity to implement Pyramid Model practices with fidelity. Prior to joining SCPI, Nichole served as an Inclusion Specialist with the SC Inclusion Collaborative for four years. She holds a M.Ed. in Education and has taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and upper elementary school. Nichole is also a Certified Trainer and Technical Assistance Provider with SC Endeavors.

Ellyn Andrews is a Behavior Specialist with the Pyramid PIECES Behavior Support Network. She provides support to districts in building their capacity to implement the Pyramid Model with fidelity through supporting teams to meet the needs of children with persistent challenging behaviors. For more than 27 years, she has served as an early childhood teacher, director, and outreach specialist, working with diverse populations in Ohio, Texas, Colorado, North and South Carolina. She has her BS in Early Childhood Education from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio and is a licensed BK-K6 teacher in North Carolina.

Access is Inclusion for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
Presenter: Cara Smithwick

Workshop Description:

Did you know that children who are deaf and hard of hearing aren't born with a disability? Children learn words and concepts by being immersed in language, setting the stage for school success. When children who are deaf and hard of hearing don't have access to typical language development, the disability is created. Learn about language as it relates to children who are deaf and hard of hearing and how to ensure appropriate inclusion happens.

About the Presenter:

Cara Smithwick is the Executive Director of Beginnings SC. She taught students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 20 years in a variety of educational settings, as well as serving as an administrator at the district level for a Midlands’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. Unable to accept the status quo with regard to intervention and education of students with a hearing loss, she co-founded Beginnings SC to focus on proactive intervention and parent education and empowerment. Cara has spent the last 10 years working to ensure that all deaf and hard of hearing children are included at home, in school, and in the community.

4:00-4:30 Closing Address

Closing Address
Facilitated by Able SC

We will reflect on the strategies & practices that were shared throughout the conference to promote inclusive early childhood education and engage in a collaborative conversation about our next steps.

About Able SC:

Able SC is a disability-led organization seeking transformational changes in systems, communities, and individuals. Their mission is to (a) equip people with disabilities with tools to foster pride and to direct their own lives, (b) educate the community to challenge stereotypes and eliminate barriers, and (c) advocate for access, equity, and inclusion at the individual, local, state, and national level.

CEUs: Participants can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for participation in keynote speaker session and breakout sessions. Participants should provide necessary information when registering for the conference to earn CEUs.