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Highly skilled administrators, master teaching artists & educators are the uniquely skilled team working together bring forth the SmART School deliverables. 


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EILEEN CONKLIN MACKIN, Founder and Director of the SmART Schools Program, a K-12 comprehensive, arts-centered, whole-school change model, formerly housed at Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) from 1999-2010. Ms. Mackin is an arts-in-education specialist, a professional visual artist, and a master teacher with an extensive background in dance and theatre. She is a graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Arts-In-Education Program. While at Harvard, she worked primarily with Project Zero faculty. Paramount to Ms. Mackin’s education reform work is a focus on professional development to cultivate arts-centered professional learning communities as a lever for academic and social success for all students.


Prior to her SmART Schools work, Ms. Mackin was the president of an educational consulting firm where she provided professional development opportunities for educators throughout the United States. In addition, as a consultant for the Massachusetts Department of Education she played a central role in the writing of the Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Frameworks/Standards for Visual Arts, Theater, Dance, and Music, and served for three years on the Massachusetts Arts Education Advisory Council to the Commissioner of Education. She has also taught visual arts and arts-infused curriculum in K-12 school/community programs as well as in undergraduate and graduate programs for colleges in New England.


Ms. Mackin has exhibited her visual arts work extensively, including in New York City, and is represented in numerous private collections.


ROBERT A. MACKIN, Co-Director of SmART Schools and Director of the program’s Secondary Schools, has previously served as Director of High Schools for America’s Choice, Inc. a national organization dedicated to whole school K-12 reform headquartered in Washington, DC. In that capacity, Dr. Mackin provided professional development for school leaders and designed a wide array of handbooks and training materials for principals and teachers. Prior to joining ACI, he was President of LEAD New England, an educational consulting firm that supports high school redesign throughout the Northeast.


For most of his career Dr. Mackin worked as a middle and high school principal in Connecticut,

New York and New Hampshire. In 1991 Bob became the founding principal of Souhegan High School (Amherst, NH), which has since been recognized as a national model for innovation and reform. Dr. Mackin was chosen as 1995 New Hampshire Principal of the Year and was runner-up for the NASSP National High School Principal of the Year award in 1996. He co-authored the publication, Standards of Mind and Heart: Creating the Good High School, published by Teachers

College Press.


Dr. Mackin has a B.A. in Politics from Princeton University, a M.A. in Education from Stanford University, and an Ed.D. in Administration and School Reform from the University of

Massachusetts, Amherst.

Taylor Amaio Fletcher

SmART Schools Training & Dissemination Specialist. Ms. Fletcher has many years of experience working with SmART Schools staff, master teaching artists, and teachers in the design and implementation of prototype arts-infused curriculum workshops and materials. She also provides ongoing, on-site support to SmART Schools, manages its website and leads its program documentation. Ms. Fletcher is a professional visual artist with a BFA from Montserrat College of Art and a M.Ed. from Lesley University

Janice Defrances

JANICE DEFRANCES, SmART Schools Director of On-Site Development, is an experienced school leader with a proven history of innovation, effective program development and team building. After a long and distinguished career as an educator, she was appointed Rhode Island Director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) by Governor Lincoln D. Chafee in 2011 where she oversaw a staff of 600. Prior to that, she was a principal in Narragansett, RI and then served as the CEO/President of Harmony Hill School in Rhode Island. Dr. DeFrances has extensive experience in arts integration having been principal of one of the first elementary schools (Narragansett, RI) to implement the SmART Schools model in 2000. In addition to her administrative duties, she continues her work as an educator and researcher, with a focus in the areas of student growth and development, applying theory to instruction, and developing effective programs. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design in the graduate program for Teaching and Learning in Art and Design.  

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ROBERT ALLWARDEN, SmART Schools Director of Music, is a music educator, musician, and singer-songwriter who has been teaching music in public and private schools for over 30 years from elementary grades through college.  Currently, Mr. Allwarden is the music specialist at Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst, New Hampshire, a job he has held for the past 24 years.  Along with teaching music to the entire school (grades 1-4) he has been the Integrated Arts Curriculum Coordinator in the district for the past twelve years. In this role he represents the arts in K-12 curriculum development and budget-making.  


Robert has a BS degree in music composition and theory and an MS degree in music education. He also holds a level-3 certification in Orff Schulwerk music education where he studied at the Orff Institute in Salzburg, Austria.  Currently he is enrolled in the Educational Doctorate program at New England College. 


Robert has been an arts-in-education consultant and staff member of Smart Schools since 1999.  He also performs frequently in the greater Boston area in a variety of venues from coffee houses to taverns.  Private and semi-private guitar lessons give Robert a chance to work with all ages of learners, from seven years to sixty-five.  


He has two recordings for children, “Animal Potpourri” and “Reptiles on Vacation.” These recordings are all original compositions.  He has published “Four Shaker Songs” with Magna Music Baton and is currently seeking publication of a recorder methods book entitled, BAG IT!.


DAN BISACCIO, SmART Schools Arts-in-Science Specialist, was Director of Science Education and lecturer in education at Brown University from 2008-2017. His on-going research with the Smithsonian Institution's Biodiversity & Monitoring Program involves secondary and college students with authentic field research opportunities at several tropical sites in Central and South America as well as the South Pacific. 


Dan’s work has been recognized by the United Nations Environmental Program (Convention on Biological Diversity) where he is an active contributor to their international biological diversity education outreach committee and has presented, with his students, pedagogical as well as biological research at United Nations Conferences on Biological Diversity (Montreal, CA – May, 2007; Bonn, Germany May – 2008). Dan has been the recipient of many national, state, and regional teaching awards including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. In addition he has authored several articles on educational pedagogy and practice.


Prior to joining Brown University’s Education Department, Dan was the Math/ Science/ Technology Division Head charged to develop and implement a program to meet the needs of all students for the 21st Century at Souhegan High School (a public school in Amherst, New Hampshire). At SHS, Dan taught advanced biology, tropical ecology, and a Conservation Biology & Literature senior seminar. He also developed and taught ongoing professional development workshops for teachers and interns. 


Dan also leads a number of international professional institutes and biodiversity research projects for teachers and students annually. His teaching methodology and research has been highlighted in several books, on National Public Radio, and on a CBS TV special focused on public education.


MAGDALENA GÓMEZ, SmART Schools Theater and Cultural Literacy Specialist, is the author of Shameless Woman, a memoir in poems, published by Red Sugarcane Press, NYC. She is also the co-editor of the first multicultural, intergenerational, multi-genre book on bullying, Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions and Catharsis (Skyhorse Publishing NYC). She is a cultural organizer, a vanguard performance poet since 1971, a playwright, and the co-founder and artistic director of Teatro V!da, the first Latin theater in Springfield, MA. 


Ms. Gómez is a commentator with New England Public Radio and is a columnist with the Point of View newspaper. A selection of her poems and monologues, Dancing in My Cockroach Killers were staged with music by Pregones and PRTT Theaters, and have been performed for the last four years to audience and critical acclaim both off-Broadway and in Los Angeles. Pregones named her a National Endowment for the Arts Master Artist in 2010. Her bilingual play with music, 

Perfectamente Loca/Perfectly Insane, was one of eight winning plays in the national Latino Theater Commons Carnaval Competition in 2015. It is currently under consideration for production. 


Additional recognition for Ms. Gomez includes a month-long residency at the world renowned Djerassi Artist Residency in California; and the selection of her poems to be set to music and performed by the 16-member, Eco-Music Big Band in 2016 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A jazz poet, Magdalena performs with musicians such as brass master, Taylor Ho Bynum; and composer, bandleader of Zemog, Abraham Gomez-Delgado.  


Magdalena was the founding Master Teaching Artist for SmART Schools in 1999 and, since that time, has worked with SmART Schools across the country. Her passion for teachers and students is deep and abiding. As she says, “I love this work and it still feels new to me!"


AMY LEIDTKE (pronounced ‘LIGHT-KEY’), SmART Schools STEM to STEAM Specialist, is a multidisciplinary design practitioner, artist and RISD educator. She is an engaged scholar with over twenty years of professional experience in research, participatory design, strategic and master planning, exhibit and product development and design, curriculum design, and public speaking. As an accomplished industrial designer and education consultant, Amy has a strong record of success combining the disciplines of strategic and master planning, ideation and design development, participatory design workshops, project management, and inclusive professional design practice. 


Amy also has extensive experience in making design accessible, developing educational symposia, salons, institutes, roundtables, exhibits, activities, products, and workshops for people of all ages. She is a master teaching artist, who specializes in guiding people in immersive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art + design, and math) and design thinking learning experiences. Amy is the co-founder of the Design Science Symposium, a biennial educational symposium of makers, thinkers, and practitioners, hosted by RISD’s Nature Lab. 


Amy serves as secretary of Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth Inc., a non-profit organization with the mission of providing free professional art-based education and training to Providence youth in a fully developed community-based arts center that reflects, encourages, and promotes the rich ethnic diversity of Providence. 


MARY ANNA NOVECK, SmART Schools Global Competencies Specialist, has an extensive career in education that has spanned over 25 years. As a long-time pioneer of research-based best practices, she has served as a classroom teacher, mentor, professional development facilitator, education consultant, lecturer and school administrator at the Kindergarten – College level.  While serving as Assistant Principal at Will Rogers Learning Community in the Santa Monica-Unified School district she was instrumental in implementing the SmART Schools West Project to identify standards based connections between the arts and core curriculum, and collaboratively developing the strategic action plan to build a strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M) instructional program dating back to 2007, a time when S.T.E.M. was not yet a mainstream movement, particularly at the elementary level. 


More recently Mary Anna is focused on advancing education for teaching global competency, using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (The World’s To Do List) to teach students empathy, valuing diverse perspectives, and problem solving around real-world issues that goes beyond the school walls.  Mary Anna’s professional development approach includes integrating the arts to develop project-based learning experiences for students to transform our world through disciplinary and interdisciplinary study. This kind of shift in pedagogy provides educators with how they can use art and the global competency framework as a creative process and teaching method to support young learners in raising awareness about issues of global significance to inspire action.


Mary Anna earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Stephens College, a Master of Arts in Education degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her Global Executive Doctorate Degree in Education from the University of Southern California. In addition to her professional duties, Dr. Noveck is a member of the Los Angeles Visitors Center where she serves as a Citizen Diplomat and also serves as a US Board Member for the imagine1day international education non-profit working to provide access and quality primary education to marginalized children in Ethiopia. In 2017, Mary Anna built a new primary school in Ethiopia in memory of a beloved friend and educator, which thus far, she considers to be her, most rewarding and greatest accomplishment in life.


KURT VAN DEXTER, SmART Schools Visual Arts Specialist, is a practicing artist, registered landscape architect, and certified K-12 visual art + design educator. Over the past 24 years, as both art educator and landscape architect, Kurt has collaborated with dozens of schools to develop educational landscapes. He currently balances teaching with a small landscape architecture practice and his ongoing engagement with painting and assemblage art in his studio.  


As a visual art + design educator, Kurt teaches visual art and landscape design full-time at the high school level. In addition, he teaches an introductory course in architectural design to high school students through the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) School of Continuing Education.  As a registered landscape architect, he is past-president and current executive board member of the Rhode Island Chapter of Landscape Architects, co-founder and planning committee member of PARK(ing) Day Providence, founding and current planning committee member of Design Week Rhode Island, and founding committee member of the Rhode Island Design Hall of Fame.  


Kurt has initiated high school level landscape design courses at two high schools.  For a period of twelve years, he presented at numerous national conferences and universities around the country explaining the importance of incorporating educational landscapes and school gardens into the cultured curriculum of K-12 schools. In 2005, he co-founded the Children’s Garden Network.


In his leisure time, Kurt is a musician (button accordion), and life-long  folk dancer.  As a dancer/performer, he founded the SGTV Alpenblumen Bavarian folkdance group 35 years ago. 


KURT WOOTTON, SmART Schools Literacy and Cultural Arts Specialist, is the co-founder of the ArtsLiteracy Project in the Education Department at Brown University and the co-founder of Habla, an international education center and lab school in Mérida, Mexico. On the faculty at Brown he taught graduate and undergraduate courses around topics including literacy, arts integration, international community development, and school reform.


With a specialty in creative literacy pedagogies, teacher professional development, and organizational change, he works internationally with teachers and administrators helping to design schools and arts organizations that are meaningful and welcoming places. Wootton has piloted lab schools in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. He has designed and implemented multi-year, district-wide literacy initiatives with the school districts of Boston, MA; St. Paul, MN; Hartford, CT; Providence, RI;  Andover, MA; Salem, MA; Vero Beach, FL; Louisville, KY; Central Falls, RI, and Plan Estratégico de Mérida, Mexico. Wootton is the co-author of the book A Reason to Read: Linking Literacy and the Arts published by Harvard Education Press. He writes about education for The Huffington Post and has published articles in numerous education journals including Educational Leadership, English Journal, and Teaching Artist Journal. 


A lifelong teacher, Wootton has taught in urban and suburban public schools, private schools, community arts organizations, and on the faculty at Brown University. The New York Times writes: “Mr. Wootton remains every bit as convinced of education’s power to transform lives. He has changed his tool of choice, however, from a mirror in which students see only reflections of themselves to a window that opens onto the rest of the world.”

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