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Happy students with paint on their hands



At the Center for Innovative Education, we believe that all members of a school community thrive when there is a commitment to equity, belonging, shared purpose and trust.



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KRISTIN BLAIS, Program Director


As the Program Director for Adult-Student Partnerships, Kris steers Astra’s work strengthening relationships between adults and students in classrooms and school communities and expanding the ways in which both groups view their roles in education. Her work involves researching, visiting, and building partnerships with schools and educational organizations as well as sharing research, tools, and strategies that can transform classrooms. When Radically Reimagined Relationships are at work in schools - when adults and students can build connections based on equity, warmth, curiosity, shared responsibility and high degrees of agency and trust – amazing outcomes are possible for both students and adults. Kris has been with the Astra Foundation since its founding in 2001, first working as a project manager and course developer with the Center for Neurodiverse Development, before earning a master’s in teaching and helping to found the Center for Innovative Education in 2017. Kris’ master’s work explored the critical nature of emotion in the learning process, a topic that continues to underpin her thinking and writing. Kris grew up in a military family and is amazed to find herself firmly rooted in Keene, New Hampshire where she has lived for nearly twenty years with her husband and sons. Preparations for an empty nest are underway.

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SARA BAILEY, Program Director

Adult Culture in Schools

As the Adult Culture in Schools Program Director, Sara leads Astra’s efforts in rethinking how staff work together to implement Radically Reimagined Relationships (RRR).  She promotes the interconnectedness and well-being of all staff, knowing that prioritizing these yield better outcomes for students, their families, and school employees.  Her work involves studying school and adult culture, visiting schools to learn with and from them, and consulting with school personnel to think about how policies and systems allow for individuals to feel seen, heard, and valued.  Sara creates professional development resources and writes for our blog, Learning Curve.  Her previous experience as a middle and high school teacher at the F.W. Parker Charter Essential School allowed her to prioritize building strong relationships with her colleagues, students, and their families.  She saw first-hand how critical these relationships were so that every person had what they needed to do their best work.  Sara also spent five years directing a summer camp in upstate New York, where she worked to develop a strong adult culture that reinforced the dignity of each person, whether they were four or forty years old.  Sara attended Boston College, where she earned her B.A. in Secondary Education and English.  An avid cooker (and burgeoning mixologist), she lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, Jack, sons, Sullivan and Tucker, and cats, Nathaniel Pawthorne and Margaret Catwood. 


Family-School Partnerships

CHERYL VINES, Program Director

As Astra’s Program Director for Family-School Partnerships, Cheryl seeks to build and cultivate relationships and partnerships with schools and organizations across the country to learn about, and share frameworks for implementing successful family-school partnerships that values the
intrinsic wisdom, strengths and resilience possessed by all children and families. Her work also includes partnering with schools to pilot and study innovative and/or evidenced-based family engagement practices and frameworks that focus on building equitable, authentic, meaningful and reciprocal relationships between schools and families to support individual student learning and success. Prior to joining Astra in 2020, Cheryl worked at the Children’s Trust of Massachusetts as The Director of Family Support where she supported and oversaw the delivery of statewide strength-based Family Support and Parent Education programming for approximately five thousand families and caretakers parenting children under the age of eight. Cheryl is also the former Executive Director of The Family Center (now known as Parenting Journey), a multi-service family support organization in Somerville, Massachusetts that annually provided intensive support to 500 at-promise, and marginalized families. She is a co-author of The Parenting Journey, the Center’s highly acclaimed and nationally/internationally replicated parent development curricula. Cheryl lives in Massachusetts with her husband, and she is the mother of two adult daughters, one son-in-law, and proud grandmother of her grandson Kal-El, yes, named after Superman.


We are grateful to the following individuals for sharing their time and expertise with us:

Rebecca Bauer, Family Engagement Specialist, National PTA

Helen Beattie, Executive Director, UP for Learning

Thabiti Brown, Head of School, Codman Academy Charter Public School, MA

Pamela Gordon, Internship Coordinator, Leominster Center for Excellence, MA

Lindsey Halman, Program Director, UP for Learning

Steve Lazar, Social Studies/English Teacher, Harvest Collegiate High School, NY

Pamela Penna, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, The Park School, MA

Shyla Rao, Principal, City Neighbors Hamilton, MD

524 Main Street,

Acton MA 01720

(978) 266-3700

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