You see necessary change—they see disruption. You say outdated—they say tradition. How can you bring your community together to support positive change in education?

Many traditional features of our school systems such as school schedules, course offerings, class rankings, grading systems, or academic standards—while often outdated—can be familiar and comforting to communities.

Here’s the truth: top-down, behind-closed-doors approaches to improving schools not only leave communities in the dark, but they rarely succeed. Yet when community members know they have been heard and understood, they feel included and empowered, not ignored—and they may even become your strongest advocates.

Schools are a community’s greatest asset. That’s why the biggest changes should be undertaken in partnership with students, families, and community members.

What You Will Learn

We will cover the fundamentals of community engagement, strategic communications, and brand strategy. These are essential competencies to navigating the complex terrain of systemic change, especially when it comes to our most cherished and valued public institutions: schools.

  • Learn how traditional approaches to educational redesign set change agents up for failure and how to avoid community tensions that often result.
  • Learn how to brand your work to maximize community support, minimize misunderstanding, and replace conflict with collaboration.
  • Transform your approach to communication by learning the dos and don’ts of messaging school change that are rooted in decades of social and cultural research.
  • Learn where the worlds of communication and community engagement align and diverge, and learn how to use both strategies to involve your community in the school-change process.

This informative, fast-paced, daylong workshop will help educators get out of their own way, drop the jargon, communicate more effectively, and design experiences for community members that are engaging, inclusive, and authentic.

“The ability to stay on brand and on message really helped address the biggest concern that people had. If we were to come off-message, then all of a sudden, we’re a different type of school. Thank goodness the stars aligned and brought us to Hairpin.”

Who Should Attend 

Those planning to undertake a new school-improvement initiative, who have encountered community resistance in the past, or who want to learn the fundamentals of effective communications and community engagement.

  • District Superintendents
  • School Principals
  • Teacher-Leaders
  • Program Directors
  • Communications Managers
  • Community-Engagement Coordinators
  • School Board Members
  • Executive Directors
  • Parent, Student and Community Leaders

Our Team

The day will be facilitated by Hairpin, a team of strategists and specialists working to give voice to causes like yours. We are a team of professionals with decades of experience helping educators, nonprofit leaders, public officials, and other change agents implement ambitious initiatives. This team has seen it all:

  • We’ve supported the creation and branding of new schools
  • We’ve developed and led ambitious communications campaigns
  • We’ve coached teams leading challenging redesign initiatives in districts and schools across the country
  • We’ve designed grant programs for foundations
  • We’ve launched and supported community-engagement initiatives in districts throughout New England
  • We built a first-of-its-kind online platform for family, school, and community engagement

…and we lived to tell about it.

Stephen Abbott is a strategist, analyst, and writer who works in the fields of public education, civic engagement, and social-change communications. Over the past two decades, he has advised foundations, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and school systems on a wide range of issues, campaigns, and initiatives, and he has delivered conference presentations and workshops throughout the United States. Stephen is also the founder and editor of Organizing Engagement, an online publication and resource platform dedicated to advancing knowledge of education organizing, engagement, and equity. The website will launch in late 2019. Stephen was previously the director of a regional student, family, and community engagement initiative that supported multiyear grants in more than 20 districts and communities across New England, and he was the creator and founding editor of the Glossary of Education Reform, a website that decodes educational terms and concepts for parents, journalists, and the general public.

Shaun Adamec works with social impact organizations of all kinds to help them find their voice. He has supported educators and advocates to develop communications strategies, craft persuasive messaging, and respond to crises. His education experience includes working directly with school and district officials to communicate new initiatives; supporting national, regional, and local education foundations to develop effective investment strategies; coaching educational leaders through crisis scenarios; developing message platforms for new educational ventures, including new schools, organizations, and initiatives; advising public officials on education policy and strategy, including serving as Chair of the Education Policy Committee for a Presidential campaign; and raising three sons in a public school system as an engaged dad.

Craig Bida helps mission-driven teams and organizations to define and build their brands. He has deep experience in education, including brand strategy development at the superintendent, district, school, and school leader levels for the Boston Public Schools, and for the Partnership for the Future of Learning, a network of education and social justice leaders working to protect and strengthen public education. Craig has also worked on branding and engagement for multiple education-focused nonprofits, including Citizen Schools, College Summit, the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network (CPLAN), the Transformative Culture Project, and FIRST. A child of career educators, Craig carries on the family tradition as an Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in entrepreneurship and social innovation, and is part of a multi-disciplinary teaching collaborative across Babson, Olin, and Wellesley colleges.

Kristen Hughes has over 20 years experience working with innovators in education including nonprofits, foundations, k-12 and higher ed to articulate and activate their brands. She is creative director of a team of talent who create tools built on strategy and clear messaging. Kristen has worked with local and national leaders in education including Partnership for the Future of Learning, National  Center for Science Education, Map Academy, Mass IDEAS, and the Barr Foundation. In a former life, Kristen was an art teacher and curriculum and program developer  for after school and summer programs in Boston. She raised two sons in Boston and Brookline public schools.

Marianne Hughes partners with change makers and educators across the world in their social transformation and racial justice efforts, by providing consulting in: strategy development and organizational change, the design and facilitation of multi-stakeholder collaborative planning and network building initiatives. Marianne was founding Executive Director of the Interaction Institute for Social Change from 1993-2012. During Marianne’s tenure as Executive Director at IISC, she managed the Education Practice, which brought leadership development, collaborative skill building, and equity and inclusion to school systems across the country from Atlanta to Dallas and locally from Brookline to Boston.


Map Academy
11 Resnik Road,
Plymouth, MA 02360


August 16, 2019
9:30am – 4:30pm


$350 per participant

Group rate: 4 or more from the same school or district that register together will receive $50 off per registration

Financial Assistance:

As part of Hairpin’s commitment to improving equity, access, and diversity, we are offering reduced-price registrations to individuals with demonstrated financial need. Please email our team for additional information.

Alternative Payment Options:

In addition to accepting credit card payments through Eventbrite, we also accept check payments. Please contact our team for instructions on check payments.


There are a number of hotels in Plymouth for those looking to stay overnight near the event.

Hotel 1620 Plymouth Harbor 
180 Water St, Plymouth, MA

Hilton Garden Inn Plymouth
4 Home Depot Dr, Plymouth, MA

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Plymouth
16 Plaza Way, Plymouth, MA