Summer Leadership Institute Wordmark A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Our 11th Annual Summer Leadership Institute

Join us for 3 interactive days with national experts in making schools and districts inclusive. Take away a multitude of practical ideas and inspiration to do this important and timely work.

Summer Leadership Boats on the Water Border
When is it? August 5-7, 2019 (additional time August 8–9 for graduate credit)
Where is it? Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.
To Register, click the button below!

Register Here!

Travel to Syracuse

  • Air – The local airport is Syracuse Hancock International Airport, 1000 Colonel Eileen Collins Boulevard. Most major airlines fly through Syracuse. For more information you can call the airport at 315-454-4330.
  • Train/Bus – The Syracuse Regional Transportation Center services AMTRAK train services, as well as Greyhound and Trailways bus services.
  • Taxi – A list of recommended taxi companies is available.

Hotel Accommodations

A limited block of rooms for Summer Leadership Institutes attendees is available at the Syracuse University Sheraton Hotel at 801 University Avenue. The discounted group rate is available by calling 315-475-3000 and mentioning the institute. Other hotels within walking distance of the Syracuse University campus:

Registration Fees

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION DISCOUNT ($50 off per person until April 30)

  • $660 per person for individual registrations
  • $600 per person for teams of 3-9 people from the same district/organization
  • $475 per person for teams of 10-19 people from the same district/organization
  • $425 per person for teams of 20-29 people from the same district/organization
  • $375 per person for teams of 30+ people from the same district/organization
  • $100 for students taking the institute for graduate credit (see link for details)

Taking the institute for graduate credit →
Dr. Julie Causton speaking to a group of educators

Leadership Institute Schedule

Monday, Aug. 5th

8:30-9:00Networking and Coffee
9:15-11:30A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Launching and Leading Inclusive Schools

Dr. Julie Causton &
Dr. George Theoharis
12:45-1:30Keynote: My Inclusive Journey

Stephanie & Casey Traver
1:30-2:00Network & Team Time
2:15-3:15Social Emotional and Trauma Informed Supports for Students with Challenging Behavior: Re-thinking Everything

Dr. Julie Causton

Tuesday, Aug. 6th

8:30-9:00Networking and Coffee
9:15-12:00The Infrastructure of Inclusion: Creating Blueprints of Learning for All Students

Shelley Moore
1:00-2:00Breakout Sessions – Walking the Talk

North Penn School District – High School Inclusion

Elmira School District – Middle School Inclusion

Somers School District – Elementary Inclusion
2:15-2:45Networking & Team Time
3:00-3:45Keynote: Life Lessons from my (Un)Special Education

Briana Dickens
3:45Wrap up

Wednesday, Aug. 7th

8:30-9:00Networking and Coffee
9:15-11:30“But what about…” Inclusive Education and Students with Big Labels

Dr. Michael McSheehan
12:45-1:30Keynote: Arise and Be Free

Kani Krishnan, Kaushi Krishnan, and Vindu Srinivasan
1:30-2:00Break, Networking & Team Time
2:00-3:00Learning Outside the Lines – Empowering Students with Learning Differences

Jonathan Mooney
3:00Institute Wrap Up

Session descriptions


Dr. Julie Causton & Dr. George Theoharis – A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Launching and Leading Inclusive Schools

Julie and George lead this engaging kick-off. You’ll leave inspired with ideas on how to help move your school and district in an increasingly inclusive direction.

Stephanie & Casey Traver – My Inclusive Journey

A 19 year old self-advocate, Stephanie will share the journey she has taken so far, to live her best, inclusive life. From her early years in elementary school through her new college program and a wide variety of extra-curricular activities, she will share the path she has taken and hopes to inspire others.

Dr. Julie Causton – Social Emotional and Trauma Informed Supports for Students with Challenging Behavior: Re-thinking Everything.

In this light-hearted session, we will take a serious look at social emotional and trauma informed learning – re-designing our schools, classrooms and thinking around those students who keeps us up at night. You will leave with many new ways to approach, support and love those amazing students!


Shelley Moore – The infrastructure of Inclusion: Creating blueprints of learning for all students

In this session we will look at what infrastructural supports can help classrooms and school teams to make inclusion shifts easier, by targeting design frameworks connected to supports, curriculum and design.

Walking the Talk Breakout Sessions…

…are led by school leaders who provide key steps/strategies they have used to create and maintain inclusive. This year we will feature them during breakout sessions. One is focused on high school, one on middle school and one on elementary school inclusion.

Briana Dickens – Life Lessons from my (Un)Special Education

In a series of funny but not-so-funny and very real stories, Brianna will use her knowledge of the school and special education system to critically reflect on her own experiences in school and the lessons to be learned.


Michael McSheehan – “But what about…” Inclusive Education and Students with Big Labels

Sharing experiences, practice strategies and inspiration for inclusive education! In this session, we will explore examples from classrooms, schools and districts across ten states. Examples will include photos, videos, planning tools, conceptual frameworks – and the stories that bring it all to life.

Kani Krishnan, Kaushi Krishnan & Vindu Srinivasan – Arise and Be Free

Kani, Kashi and their mother Vindu will share their inclusive journey from K-12 into college including advocating for themselves, emotional freedom of moving into adulthood, and emotional support needed for the entire family.

Jonathan Mooney – Learning Outside the Lines-Empowering Students with Learning Differences

Learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) are profoundly paradoxical experiences. Often students with these academic and behavioral labels struggle profoundly in traditional settings. Yet emerging brain research suggests that many students labeled LD/ADHD have profound gifts for creative and visual thinking that go unrecognized in academic environments. As a result, many bright and gifted labeled students struggle with a devastating pattern of academic failure, learned helplessness, and low self-esteem. This presentation tackles this paradox head on. In this presentation, Jonathan clearly outlines the research that validates a reframing of LD/ADHD as not a set of deficits or disorders but in fact, as cognitive gifts. He speaks honestly, based on his personal and professional experience, about the systemic and cultural barriers to validating these unique learning styles. Most importantly, in this practical presentation, Jonathan empowers teachers and other education professionals with concrete strategies to build a positive self-understanding in labeled students.

Attendees at the inclusion conference
George and Julie

Presenter Bios

Julie Causton, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Inclusive Schooling, author of six books and over forty articles on inclusive schooling. She works with administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals and families across the country to help them promote and improve inclusive practices. Her dynamic presentations focus on engaging ways to educate all students within the context of general education. Julie has spent the past 20 years studying best practices for inclusive education.  She was a Professor teaching future educators in the Inclusive and Special Education Program at Syracuse University and before that taught elementary, middle and high school special education.  She knows firsthand how inclusion leads to better outcomes for all students. She lives in Manlius, NY with her two awesome children.

Brianna Dickens is an autistic self-advocate and currently a PhD student in special education and disability studies at Syracuse University. Brianna has a masters degree in special education and bachelors degree and teaching certification in elementary education. She is currently a research assistant at the Institute on Communication and Inclusion which researches and supports typing to communicate. As someone with her own neurodivergent and alternative communication journey, her research and work focuses on exposing the possibilities when different ways of being are centered in schools, in the community, and in research.

Stephanie Travers is a 19 year old self-advocate from Spokane, WA, where she is a first year college student. Stephanie grew up with her mom and twin brother, enjoying activities like bowling, skiing and piano lessons, cooking and social time with her friends. Within her school district of 13,000 students, she was the first student with Down syndrome to spend all 12 years of her education in her neighborhood school in primarily general education classes with her typical peers. While her mom advocated on her behalf during her K-12 years, including a lengthy Due Process hearing, Stephanie is learning to advocate for her own rights and needs and she attends the College-to-Career program at Spokane Falls Community College. In the fall of 2020, she hopes to attend Washington State University’s SOAR program and live on campus!

Casey Travers’ journey as an advocate began 6-weeks into her daughter Stephanie’s first grade year when the school attempted to move Stephanie out of her neighborhood school and into a self-contained program several miles away. Although that situation was resolved after several months and with the help of a good attorney, advocacy remained critical and led to a Due Process hearing when Stephanie was in 8th grade. In 2007, Casey embarked on a journey to become an Occupational Therapist and now works in the 2nd largest district in Washington state, advocating for more inclusive practices across the entire district as well as directly for the students she serves for OT.

Kanishk Krishnan: I am a freshman  at Onondaga Community College. I am really excited about participating at this leadership conference as it means a lot to me to share my experiences with the educators. My ability to communicate has changed my life from nothingness to one of completeness. I am quite happy with my life and I am able to express my intelligence to the fullest possible extent. The best part is getting regular education which has been an unexpressed dream of mine for so many years. Philosophy is my passion and Physics interests me greatly. I love writing poems too. My transition from high school to college has been quite arduous as fear of losing the familiar and losing the support of family as I transition into adulthood had made me quite bogged down and overwhelmed to the point of disrupting my quality of life and my family’s too. I am slowly coming out of this fear and want to share this part of my journey to help the educators and parents understand, anticipate,  and come up with creative solutions.

Kaushik Krishnan: I am a freshman at Onondaga Community College. I hope to graduate and start a small gluten free bakery someday. Making clay art and cooking are my hobbies.  I am participating in this leadership conference to share how my ability to communicate has changed my life. My whole life has changed as if I am reborn and no words can describe how wonderful it has been. It has turned my life around 180° from an automated robotic existence under the influence of OCDs getting worse every day, to being able to express my true thoughts and be an equal partner in communication. I am able to advocate for my needs and wants and able to educate my peers and professors that autism may have affected my ability to express like others however, it can’t take away my expression  and who I am. There are so many like me who haven’t found their voice yet and I would like to extend a plea to all of you to help those who need a voice to find it by whatever means necessary. Let us all unite together and pave a path for the success of students of all abilities.

Vidyul Krishnan: I am a mother of three children, of whom two are on the spectrum, twins. Yes, MOTHER is the only identity I feel like I have, as all other roles dissolved into this one mega role. It has been a long, arduous journey to get to where we are now, however there has been plenty of exhilarating moments and experiences too. It has been my greatest honor to be able to help my children to get where they are now and move further beyond. Being a part of this Leadership Conference is a great opportunity for me to share our journey from my perspective and may be we can find ways to make this journey less arduous for others. Life is all about balance. When we lose it, no matter what we achieve, it may not be worth it. I found out that every member of a special needs family needs mental,  emotional and moral support. It can be through our friends network, extended family support, or societal support. We shall never feel guilty for taking the time to rejuvenate. It is the key for continued support for our children.

Michael McSheehan is a project director with the Institute on Disability/UCED. Michael currently serves as the Coordinator of Technical Assistance for the School-wide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) Center, established in 2012, which is a a national K-8 technical assistance center that builds school capacity to provide academic and behavioral support to improve outcomes for all students through equity-based inclusion. Michael was a developer, researcher, and author of The Beyond Access Model, which has been used successfully by schools across the United States to promote membership in general education classrooms, participation in general education instruction, and learning of general education curriculum by students with significant disabilities. Michael consults with various state education agencies and is nationally recognized for his presentations at conferences and exceptional skills in working with teams to solve challenging problems within school-wide improvement and reform efforts

Jonathan Mooney is a writer and learning activist who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He is a graduate of Brown University’s class of 2000 and holds an honors degree in English Literature.   Jonathan has spent his entire professional career as a social entrepreneur developing organizations, programs, and initiatives to improve the lives of marginalized groups. In 1997, as an undergraduate at Brown University, Jonathan co-founded Project Eye-To-Eye, a non-profit advocacy organization for students with learning differences.  As the founding president and Executive Director, Jonathan grew the organization from an undergraduate project conceived in his dorm room into a national organization, which currently has 38 chapters in 20 states working with over 10,000 parents, educators, and students.


With the publication of Learning Outside The Lines (now in its 18th printing) when he was 23, Jonathan has established himself as one of the foremost leaders in the neurodiversity and learning revolution.  His second book, The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal was published in the spring of 2007 to outstanding reviews in The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and many other national publications. Jonathan’s work has been widely recognized for its innovation and social impact.  In 1999, Jonathan was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar for Public Service. In 2000, Jonathan was selected as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. In 2002, the LD Access Foundation recognized his work for students with disabilities with the Golden Advocacy award.


Jonathan is a highly sought after speaker on neurodiversity, education reform, the learning revolution, and creating college and career pathways for at risk youth. He has lectured in 43 states and three countries.  He has been featured and quoted in/on The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, HBO, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.

George Theoharis, Ph.D., is a Professor in Educational Leadership and Inclusive Elementary Education at Syracuse University. He has extensive field experience in public education as a principal and teacher. He previously served as Department Chair of Teaching and Leadership and Associate Dean for Urban Education Partnerships at Syracuse University. In the Urban Education capacity, he acted as the university liaison to the Say Yes to Education collaboration and directed the urban education initiatives. He also previously served as the Director of Field Relations and was responsible for engaging the School of Education at Syracuse with schools and districts in New York State. George teaches classes in educational leadership and elementary/early childhood teacher education. He coordinates the Inclusive Early Childhood and Special Education undergraduate program. His interests, research, and work with K-12 schools focuses on issues of equity, justice, diversity, inclusion, leadership, and school reform. George has 6 books and many many articles. George’s work bridges the worlds of K-12 schools and higher education.  As such, he writes for public audiences in outlets such as:  The School Administrator, Educational Leadership (online), The Principal, The Washington Post, and The Root, The Syracuse Post-Standard, as well as writing for academic journals such as Teachers College Record, Educational Administration Quarterly, Urban Education, Journal of Special Education Leadership, etc. He co-runs a summer institute for school leaders focusing on issues of disability, equity and inclusion. He consults with leaders, schools, and districts around issues of leadership, equity, diversity and inclusive reform around the United States and Canada. His Ph.D. is in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. George grew up in Wisconsin in an activist family committed to making a more just world. Currently, he lives in Fayetteville, NY with his 2 awesome children and his parents.

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Past Summer Leadership Institute Information

Interested in looking at the lineup and schedule from last year’s Summer Leadership Institute? Click here to see our presenters, agenda, and photos from past events

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