Leadership Summit

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Enhance your leadership skills while taking a well-deserved break at two day workshop designed especially for professionals just like you.

South Dakota Early Childhood and School Age Leadership Summit

July 12th & 13th, 2024

Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center, Oacoma, SD

Friday, July 12th

Registration and Lunch – 11:00 am
Welcome and Keynote – 11:45 am
Tracks Begin – 12:45 pm
Dinner & Network – 6:00 pm

Saturday, July 13th

Breakfast – 7:30 am
Tracks Begin – 8:00 am
Closing and Door Prizes – 12:15 pm

Keynote Speaker

Continuous Quality Improvements – Your Path to Success

Debi Mathias

Debi Mathias

Keynote Speaker

Debi Mathias serves as the Director of ECE Quality Improvement Systems Network with the BUILD Initiative, a broad cross-section of partners at the state and national level focused on the development and implementation of high-quality early learning systems. Previous to her work in with the BUILD Initiative Debi was a governor appointee as the Director of Early Learning Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), Departments of Education and Public Welfare in Pennsylvania, from the beginning of the Office, 2005 – 2012. Her responsibilities included design, implementation, and accountability for teams responsible for a variety of programs and initiatives including Keystone STARS – QRIS, Family Support programs (NFP, MIECHV, EHS Grantee, PCHP), state Pre-K program, State Head Start program and Head Start State Collaboration Office, PA Professional Development system, standards aligned systems (learning standards etc.), PELICAN data base system, program evaluation and research. Debi was program Director, SUM Child Development Inc. from 1978 to June 2005, where she began a child care program that grew into a multi-site NAEYC Accredited early care and education program serving 800+ children ranging in age from six weeks to 12 years; led a talented staff of 95+, at six early learning and eleven school age sites; collaborating with Head Start and Early Intervention.

Leadership Summit Flyer

Free Event

First 50 Directors to register will receive $200 Travel Scholarship

Scholarship recipient must be traveling more than 50 miles to qualify

No more than 2 people per licensed daycare

Contact your local Early Childhood Enrichment office to register.

Those receiving Travel Scholarships will receive a confirmation email with more details – We are looking forward to seeing you this summer.

Rooms at Arrowwood

Room reservations will be your responsibility. We have room blocks available at Arrrowwood Resort and the Amerinn – both with a release date of May 28th.

Track #1

Strengthening Business Practices


Nikki McLaughlin

Nikki McLaughlin

Speaker - Strengthening Business Practices

My name is Nikki McLaughlin and I live in Sioux Falls with my husband, 3 girls and 2 dogs! I have been invested in the Early Childhood Field since I can remember. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stout with a Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and have been in either a teacher role or director role for over 20 years. I am passionate about the impact us as early childhood educators can make on the lives of children and always look for an opportunity to grow my knowledge and those of others in our field.

Jessi Beedle

Jessi Beedle

EC Specialist – Coaching and Leadership Focus

Jessi Beedle is an Early Childhood Specialist in Rapid City and has been in the field of childcare for over 15 years. Jessi has worked in centers, both large and small, and owned/operated an in-home preschool before starting her work with Early Childhood Connections at the start of 2020. Through her years in the field, Jessi developed a passion for raising up leadership teams to bring power to the profession.

Janet Stange

Janet Stange


Jan is a training specialist, concentrating in the out-of-school time field.  She comes to the CFRN with over 30 years of experience as an OST director and holds a degree in elementary education with specializations in kindergarten and gifted ed.  Jan’s excited about providing training and technical assistance to those in the OST field and is a certified American Heart Association Heartsaver instructor, coordinates the Common Sense Parenting classes, and helps to facilitate the Director Lunch and Learn training that are offered through the CFRN.

Budgets, Projections, and Planning

  • Learn a process for building a budget and how to use it for decision making throughout the year.
  • Understand how to project business costs, generate additional income, and plan strategically for future goals.
  • Introduce financial reports that can help you to better manage the program’s finances.

staff recruitment and retention

  • Understand best practices related to recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new employees.
  • Have a framework for building an effective orientation plan for new employees.
  • Be familiar with the components of a staff handbook.
  • Identify strategies for providing feedback to employees.
  • Identify marketing strategies for child care programs.

Track #2

Building Whole Leadership Practices


Dr. Jill M. Bella, Ed.D.

Dr. Jill M. Bella, Ed.D.

Speaker - Director’s Toolbox Management Series

Dr. Jill M. Bella, Ed.D., founder and president of Bella Mattina, provides consultation and training to local and state initiatives focused on leadership topics in early care and education. She holds a doctorate degree in Adult and Continuing Education from National Louis University (NLU), and both a graduate degree in Special Education—Early Intervention and a baccalaureate degree in Child Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Previously, Dr. Bella was Director of Professional Learning and an Assistant Professor at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at NLU for twenty-two years. In this role, she consulted on leadership initiatives, developed several assessment and evaluation tools, designed, delivered, and oversaw nationally recognized leadership academies and trainings, developed module content, and conducted research. Dr. Bella also worked as an early interventionist, training specialist, coach, and early educator. Her interests include early childhood leadership, organizational climate, the early childhood workforce, and systems thinking. She is co-author of the Program Administration Scale, Third Edition; A Great Place to Work; Building Whole Leadership; Inspiring Peak Performance; Zoom: The Impact of Early Childhood Leadership Training on Role Perceptions, Job Performance, and Career Decisions; the Administrator Role Perceptions Survey, several trainer’s guides in the Director’s Toolbox Management Series; and multiple articles.

Leading with the Heart: Fostering Emotional intelligence

When adults who care for children are stressed and their emotional needs and not being met, the quality of their interactions with children in their care are likely to suffer. Leaders of early care and education programs must be keenly in tune with their own emotions and the emotions of their staff in order to create the conditions in which children learn best . This session will help leaders become more in touch with emotional triggers and the four emotional intelligence domains. Leaders will explore emotions, leadership styles, and also learn strategies for interaction with an emotional lens.

When Climate Change is Good: Improving the Organizational Climate in Early Care and Education Programs

The headlines forecasting dire consequences from climate change are indeed ominous, yet in some cases climate change can be a good thing. In early care and education settings, where conditions are unpredictable, improving the climate leads to job satisfaction, retention, and high quality practices. Even in programs where conditions are generally sunny and the work climate predictable, understanding what contributes to those positive conditions is important. This session looks at dimensions of organizational climate and how directors can use this information to improve quality of work life in their programs.

Inclusive Leadership and the power of Shared Decision-making

Empowering staff and creating a spirit of collaboration in early childhood programs is central to achieving high performing work teams. Meaningful involvement in decision-making is one way that trust and commitment to organizational goals can be achieved. This session presents a framework for analyzing different types of decisions in program administration and how directors can move to a more inclusive process in achieving organizational goals.

Building Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything

Organizations built on trust can do amazing things. Trust can be used to inspire and motivate. Trust can create strong bonds that endure the most difficult challenges. Yet, when trust is removed, the most united and powerful relationships, teams and organizations can be destroyed in a heartbeat. Come prepared to explore the components of trust and learn behaviors that will help you create a psychologically safe environment and build trust with your staff.

South Dakota Department of Social Services
Sanford Children's
The Right Turn
Child and Family Resource Network logo
Early Childhood Connections
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