LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Bobby Riley

Position: Principal
School: Integrated Arts Academy
School District: Burlington School District
City, State: Burlington, VT

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Bobby Riley was nominated by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous. The nominator taught in an urban San Francisco school for 16 years, and was instantly welcomed by Bobby's warm personality, openness and positivity whens he interviewed the Integrated Arts Academy.

"l knew this was the right school for me because of the obvious excitement  and supportive attitudes towards a diverse population  of families. Now in my third year at lAA, there are many things I have come to respect, love and admire about Bobby Riley as a principal," the nominator said. "lt all comes back to his deep belief in building a strong community to support the school's students, staff and families.

He is always willing to listen. He will be honest  if he does not have a solution to an issue, but he is always ready to engage in meaningful dialogue.

"Bobby encourages collaboration in all ways. He does not approach leadership from a top-down perspective. He sees all of  his staff as professionals with valid, creative perspectives and ideas and he encourages us to share in many different forums, whether  it be a PLC (professional learning community), a staff meeting around a CFG (Critical Friends Group) protocol, or an EST (Educational Support Team) about a particular child. Bobby also really knows and is invested in each and every child at this school," his nominator said.

Mr. Riley builds relationships with his students by making a point to get to know them. He wants the children to feel comfortable with him and to trust him. During all-school meetings each Monday morning, the school announces the student of the week for each class. As Mr. Riley welcomes each child up in front of the whole school, he moves to where they are, gets down on their level, whispers a little welcome, and looks them in the  eye when they are done.

"This is so simple, but so powerful. He is constantly working to make connections with children and their families and making them all feel like  a true part of the community," his nominator said. "As a result, our school really feels like a community, a family. Mr. Riley understands that the key to  a successful school is building relationships. He encourages this among students, staff and families. He welcomes guest artists and student teachers and  makes them feel included and a part of our greater community."

Mr. Riley helps celebrate his students' achievements. The nominator invites him to the integrated arts celebrations and end-of literacy unit celebrations, where he offers positive feedback to the children. He goes to all of their special evening events, such as the school play or any public performances. He lets every child know that they and their work are valued.

Another powerful aspect of a successful school that Mr. Riley promotes is acceptance and tolerance of differences among staff. He is not afraid to bring sensitive issues to the forefront and talk openly about how his staff responds to various situations. He supports and accepts that his staff may have different feelings about the same situation. Mr. Riley often shares stories during community meetings. Sometimes he tells a story with a pertinent theme, such as the wooden spoon story, which contains the theme that working together is easier than doing everything alone. Other times, he reads a  book to the whole school about an important issue.

Mr. Riley is also a huge proponent of mindfulness, teaching a social-emotional curriculum, and teaching children to self regulate.

Another value Mr. Riley tackles is school equity, or the idea that fairness and equity do not mean everyone gets the same thing. It means that everyone gets what they need. He used a graphic to start this conversation, which showed three people of different heights looking over a fence to watch a baseball game. Only the tall person could see. Then it showed each person standing on a crate. The shortest person couldn't see, and the tallest person was even taller.  The other side  of the graphic showed the same three people, but this time, the tall person didn't have a crate, the medium sized person had one crate, and the shortest person had two crates. Then, Mr. Riley read a book about a child with autism, and the staff discussed how different people need different things.

"Bobby is constantly modeling kindness, acceptance and mindfulness. There is a lot of empowerment when a school body can see their principal stand up for them and welcome them as they  are," his nominator said. "Bobby has such a deep understanding of using intentional art experiences to teach the core curriculum. He has been a great role model for me, coming to this school after its mission and transformation were well under way.  I have always used the arts to teach, but  I now have a much deeper understanding of arts integration directly related to Bobby's leadership."

Risk taking is a huge part of arts integration. Mr. Riley is always willing to participate  in the arts and take risks in front of children, staff and families. He models the joy that can  be found through the arts and uses it to build community.

"You can walk by his office and hear him playing the guitar with a group of kiddos, and he partícipates whenever possible with a group of staff acting out stories at Monday morning meetings. He doesn't just talk the talk. He shows us the power of the arts, and how they not only help us learn, but bring joy and communíty," his nominator said. 

By working with him and this amazing staff, the nominator has become much more comfortable acting, dancing and even sínging in front of her school community. The children at this school have learned to be risk-takers, as well. 

Three times a year, his staff meets for a unique professional development day. Mr. Riley works dilígenfly to plan these retreats. The staff often use the arts to gain a deeper understanding of themes like home or trauma.

"I always walk away from these retreats with  a deep sense of peace and a profound connection to our topic, as well  as deeper relationships and communication with my colleagues," the nominator said. "I deeply believe that Bobby's work as principal of our amazing, diverse, and magical school should be recognized and celebrated. He  is definitely deserving  of this honor."



Comments (33)


Teresa Giallorenzo Posted over a year ago

Mr. Bobby is changing lives every day. Students and employees alike. If you come in to IAA, you will see Bobby working one on one with kids for most of the day helping them navigate through challenges that they are facing at school and in life. You don’t see many principals following around a kid who is running away all day; not because they don’t want to but because they may be busy with the other aspects of their principalship. But Bobby is committed to helping each student develop the necessary social emotional skills that they need to make it through the day and to succeed in life. The students come first. Bobby is also a huge support person for all of his enployeees and he guides us and helps us when we need it. He is truly a life changer and deserves this award!

Anonymous Community Member Posted over a year ago

If you want to identify the caring and thoughtful nature of Bobby Riley, affectionately known as Mr. Bobby to all, simply review the following Blog posts. These posts went “viral” and sent a message of caring and love to our community at times when it was greatly needed. The way he writes, is the way he lives, with care, great tact and an abundance of love. I’ve taken the opportunity to read many of the profiles and the selection committee has a difficult task. One made easier by Mr. Boddy’s nomination. He is, with out a doubt a life changer worthy of this honor. http://iaavt.weebly.com/blog/restoration-of-hope-solidarity-and-healing-my-personal-reflections-on-the-bsd-teacher-strike http://iaavt.weebly.com/blog/-what-now-for-kids-creating-community-after-the-2016-election http://iaavt.weebly.com/blog/send-a-positive-message-about-standardized-tests

Scott Howard Posted over a year ago

I am a public elementary school teacher - I worked in Brooklyn at a Magnet School for the Arts for a number of years, and a few years ago my wife and our daughter visited Burlington, VT with the intention of one day moving there. I met a number of principals at the time, shook hands and handed out my resume', thinking once we do make the move (which we thought would be the following school year) I'd have a foot in the door. Of all the principals I met the one that left the biggest impact on me was Bobby Riley. Bobby took us on a tour of his school - the Integrated Arts Academy in the Old North End of Burlington, VT - when we arrived, and sat and spoke with me about the mission of the school. He was so thoughtful and considerate, and truly engaged and excited about the community of people with whom he worked and the children who attended the school. 3 years later (this school year) I was given the opportunity to apply, interview, and eventually get a job at IAA (I am now a 3rd grade teacher there). The Integrated Arts Academy is a public magnet school whose focus is on integrating the Arts into the curriculum we teach each and every day, however - it is so, so much more than that. The school caters to a diverse population of children, many of whom are refugees/recent immigrants to the United States from various countries. The Love and care that is shown to these children is incredible - to all of the children at IAA, and it comes from "the top down" so to speak, as it is Bobby - his completely in-tune understanding of how best to treat the staff, families, and children that makes us all want nothing more than to be the absolute best we can be each and every day we come to work. He is the most kind, thoughtful, gracious, exuberant, insightful person you could imagine working for, and his efforts are nothing but heartfelt and in-line with the basic understanding that we, as educators - as humans - need to be aware of our students' emotional well being first and foremost - and that academics are secondary. We, as a staff, go on retreats and experience workshops that focus on restorative justice and creating a cohesive community of learners, as well as learn how best to implement the Arts in all we do (at my first retreat with the staff, just before school started this year, we worked on fun songs to sing with the students, pottery that we will use as a "center piece" in our classroom during "circle time," and yoga and mindfulness practices and exercises to do with our students - it was uplifting and amazing).

Jeanne Posted over a year ago

It is my pleasure to write on behalf of Robert Riley, a nominee for Life Changer of the Year. I have known Mr. Riley for nearly 15 years, in my roles as Director of Special Education and then Superintendent of the Burlington Schools over that span of time. The most relevant information I can share about Mr. Riley is how he came to be principal. In Burlington School District, after working with the community for three years of difficult conversation about poverty and equity, we had created two magnet schools in the highest poverty part of the city. H.O. Wheeler Elementary School, where Mr. Rileyworked as a librarian, had over 90% of its student population receiving free and reduced lunch. The school was identified as one of the lowest performing schools in the state in2008. That year, it also opened its doors as the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler, in a transformational effort to change the demographics and increase equity of opportunity in the school. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, the school lost itsprincipal right away and an interim principal was assigned in its inaugural year. Mr. Riley took on a leadership role as school librarian, helping to shape the new model of learning and leading teacher and community committees. His dedication to the students and families and the success of the school was evident from the very beginning. Eventually, we did hire a permanent principal who turned out to be the wrong fit for the school. By December, I had to let the principal go and I asked Mr. Riley, who had already proven his leadership skills, to step into the role as interim. He did so without question and immediately began to work on calming the faculty and parent communities with a focus on student learning. A search commenced for a new principal and Mr. Riley easily floated to the surface as the strongest candidate, and he has been in this position since that time. Understanding that Mr. Riley was asked to help transform a local neighborhood school to an integrated arts model school while healing a faculty who had been in chaos for a few years, Mr. Riley more than rose to the occasion. He immediately instituted principal coffees to bring in the parent community, worked with his faculty to institute "I Can" statements and change the culture from one of "victim" to one of leadership, and put the back on the front burner. He cultivated community partnerships, identifying a need in the school such as drama coach and leveraging resources and partnerships to ensure the school met that need. He led by example, more than willing to participate in the school- community events by playing with is band or MCing a talent show and has worked with the PTO to set up annual fundraising events that also build community. Not only was H.O. Wheeler a high poverty school when Mr. Riley began there, it was in a refugee resettlement community and his English Language Learner population exploded. Rather than shy away from that challenge, Mr. Riley took it on, ensuring all 40 plus global communities came together with the local Burlingtonians and embraced the school community as their own. Demographics have changed from over 90% poverty to around 50%, as was the target, as Mr. Riley supported the magnet concept of attracting families outside the Old North End while embracing the New Americans as well. The biggest winner under Mr. Riley's leadership were the students. Student scores raised dramatically on NECAP annual tests and students became owners oftheir own learning. Arts were integrated into all aspects of learning, which actually opened the doors to many and leveled the playing field for all. Through it all, Mr. Riley has shared his vision and kept his eye on the prize as external events continued to try to intervene. His dedication to the students led to difficult decisions and creative decisions. His leadership has led to local support and national attention as well as student achievement. I fully support his nomination and I hope you give serious consideration to what he has been able to accomplish as an educational leader.

Oliver Kranichfeld Posted over a year ago

I nominate Bobby for Lifechanger of the year. I'm both a friend and a former colleague of Bobby Riley from 2009 to 2011, shortly after I moved to Burlington. At the time, he was the school librarian and IAA was in its first year of transitioning from its former namesake, HO Wheeler, into the current arts-centered magnet school, the Integrated Arts Academy. Since I've known Bobby, he has always been the caring, hard-working, student-centered administrator and educator that a school like IAA desperately needs. He has all of the elements of a strong leader: caring, a strong advocate for students, fair to students and staff alike, but he's also a person who's not afraid to have fun and create a culture in that building that is exciting and full of creative energy. In the relatively short period since Bobby took the reigns at IAA, the school has seen a tremendous amount of progress and transformed into something that the community can really be proud of and help foster for years to come.

Megan Posted over a year ago

Dear Selection Committee, I am a parent of two students at the Integrated Arts Academy at H. O. Wheeler (lAA) in Burlington and it is with a deep sense of gratitude and honor that I am writing in support of our nomination of Bobby Riley ("Mr. Bobby") for Life Changer of the Year. As an educator and parent who believes, on the most fundamental level, that our public schools are the frontline in a continuing struggle for social justice, equity, and evolving pathways that support each of our children in being both their very best selves and valued members of a loving learning community,I am often critical of our educational leaders. I want our leaders to be fully invested in each and every child, fully supportive of each and every teacher, and fully engaged with the complicated work of the school and its community. I want our leaders to reimagine the box for the sake of our children. The truth is, I am a parent who left the school community after the 2008-2009 school year, because the principal at the time was well meaning but ineffective, the teachers committed but utterly overwhelmed, and students loved but not nurtured or challenged in the ways I wanted for all of our children. V/hen I heard from friends that, after the school endured a devastating year of a new principal, the former librarian had been appointed principal I was disappointed. I assumed tha; district nepotism and a fear of meaningful change guided the decision. I could not have been more wrong. We rejoined IAA in 20l3 because my middle son clearly needed the arts integrated into his daily learning. I returned with a skepticism that tumed quickly into profound respect and gratitude. It is impossible to count how many times I have been, and continue to be, blown away by Bobby's deep love for his students in all of their complexity, his commitment to a joyful and dynamic learning environment for both students and teachers, and his willingness to think and act way beyond the metaphorical box. I have been moved to tears countless times over the years by the power of Mr. Bobby's conscious leadership, most recently by his reading and discussion of the children's book, Princess Boy (Kilodavis, 2009) with our school community. He asked our students to suspend judgment, to not giggle nervously or call out inappropriately. It was a risky, yet very real and critically important subject, and because of Mr. Bobby's guidance and the school community he has been instrumental in creating, our students listened in rapt attention; when he asked the questions that conclude the story, such as "Who will play with my princess boy?" our students shared "Me!" "l will!" "He can play with me!" They clapped and cheered in support and understanding. When he followed up with conversation about the importance of making room for all of us, they responded with openness, insight and respect, perhaps because he approaches them lovingly, with insight and respect. Again and again, Mr. Bobby models socio-emotional and intellectual learning through story-telling, dance, drama, and song, displays an ability to address serious issues firmly yet gently. I have been stunned by his ability to build meaningful relationships with our most difficult children, to create safe boundaries while not wavering in his warmth and commitment to their growth as individuals and community members. I have brought my education students to witness Monday Morning Meeting with its inter-generational drum corps, staff performances, and most profoundly, its very public honoring of a Student of the Week from every classroom. In Student of the Week. Bobby has created a weekly ritual that makes visible the very real and challenging work our students do on a daily basis; that honors the essential qualities we hope for from all of our students, from avid reading and writing to intellectual perseverance, from multicultural curiosity to everyday kindness. He reminds us all of how complicated is to be human, how critical is to be intellectually and emotionally engaged, how important it is to see each student as a whole and complete human being capable of greatness and grace. I do not know of other principals in our district who do this to such a degree, who have taken a school community torn by anger and uncertainty and nurtured unity through deep relationships and creative leadership. I have both heard of and experienced principals in other schools who are not responsive or respectful to the needs of diverse and evolving learners, who seem to value test scores and outward appearances over true, sustained, and joyful learning. Because of Mr. Bobby, I now know what it is to have a school principal that htows and believes in every child in his school, values creativity and exploration of students and staff alike, and not only encourages, but models, life-long learning and music-making. This does not mean that I always agree with Mr. Bobby, but it does mean that when, he gently refused my request to change my son's teacher last spring because he was sure that Fisher would thrive as a fifth grader with Mr. Whitman, I trusted him. As a result, I have witnessed Fisher fiourish this year as a writer, performer, thinker, anci irienci. iviy first-gracier has speciai needs and is supported, challenged, and loved by a team of teachers who themselves feel supported, challenged, and loved by this principal who is committed to figuring out who Luca actually is and can be as a learner, not who he "should be" as a number. I hope that as your committee considers publicly honoring a Vermont school leader that embodies an unwavering commitment to children as individuals, to their learning, to their community, and to their futures, you will recognize Mr. Bobby, who had and continues to have the courage to lead honestly with passion, sensitivity confidence, and grace.

Judy K Posted over a year ago

As the lntegrated Arts Coach, I have been with the magnet school since its inception in 2009. ln the first three years we had a revolving door of four different administrators. Our leadership sputtered, which greatly limited our efforts to transform our school. Bobby Riley was the school librarian throughout this time, and from the sidelines he guíded and supported our tentative leadership. Thus, it was a welcome and natural transition when he was hired as the interim princípal in the middle of the 2011-2012 school year. The following school year, Bobby was hired as the principal of IAA- lt was not until Bobby Riley came on board as principal that our mission to become a successful integrated arts magnet school gained sure footing and our momentum took root. This journey has been a remarkable one, and it is unequivocally clear to me that our success is based on the outstanding leadership of Bobby Riley. I am so deeply honored to work wíth hím. One of the most difficult, most complex, yet most important aspects of leadership is the positive transformation of a school culture. ln just a few years, Bobby Riley accomplished this and he continues to raise the bar. He has created a school climate that breathes joy, passion, engagement, enthusiasm, and collaboration in our daily interactions. He has shifted the fíxed mindset that had setiled into our mortar and bricks to shared understandings that allow us to embrace change and to believe in possibility and growth for every child. He inspires us - staff and students alike - through his commitment and his dírect participation in all that we do. Bobby Riley empowers his faculty to take the lead on important school-wide issues. He has unshakeable faith in the skills of his staff, and he has worked hard over the past four years to build our individual and collective capacity and to bring together a team of fonvard-thinking, progressive changemakers who understand the need for a paradigm shift in education. He has earned the trust of his faculty. He plans deeply meaningful professional development opportunities for his staff based on current research in education as well as arts integration, best practices, Professional Learning Communities, and Critical Friends Group protocols. He has learned how to tap the expertise and resources within the greater Burlington community to weave together the framework through which we all learn' Additionally, Bobby forms caring relationships with each student, understanding the needs of the whole child. He makes thoughtful and appropríate connections with our richly diverse larger community so that every family feels valued here at lM. He also collaborates with a wide range of partners from our larger community in ways that build bridges of support for our students. We all know it takes a village, and he clearly understands that our committed and talented staff cannot possibly expect to meet the needs of every child by ourselves. As a result of these significant relationships forged with our broader community, the IAA has funding for a multitude of unique opportunities thai exist nowhere else in the state; three full day, off site staff retreats per yeaï a strings/violin program for all our upper elementary students; a multicultural singing/literacy program in the primary grades; a robust artist-in-residence program; and a drama coach along with assorted programs related to developing performance skills, to name just a few. Bobby goes out of his way to create opportunities for our students that enhance their success both as students, and as flourishing human beings in an often unkind and inequitable world. Among the first changes that Bobby Riley made as a principal was to co-create with staff a set of belief statements that reflect and continue to shape our school culture. Bobby passionately upholds these belief statements and regularly reminds staff of the power of our commitment and our mission as educators. I would like to highlight belief #4: FLOURISHING THROUGH THE ARTS. lt is the mission of the IAA to explore academic knowledge through intentional art experiences. Having a leader who embodies this belief is critical to our success. As an administrator, Bobby Riley's faith in the arts is second to none. He tirelessly supports arts ínitiatives throughout the building and is always fínding new research to support the work at hand. He is an avid reader and a scholar of best practices for schools. He reaches out across the country to engage with other school leaders about the power of arts learning. He has given guest lectures, spoken at local colleges, and co-created wíth staff, workshops that illustrate the work that we do. Additionally, he tells stories, writes songs, and joins our faculty in regular performances and weekly assemblies that include acting, singing, and dance. He is an outstanding role model for our students when he partakes in these creative opportunities, showing them how important it is to take risks and develop confidence in self-expression. Plus, it's just plain old cool to see our principal performing! The lntegrated Arls Academy (formerly H.O. Wheeler Elementary) is situated in Burlington's Old North End. Because Burlington is a designated refugee resettlement area and the Old North End has affordable housing, many refugees initially settle in the neighborhood, often right next door to longer term residents caught in intergenerational poverty. When we opened as a magnet school, this school was among the highest poverty schools in Burlington (98% FRL) and had the poorest student achíevemenf scores in the district. Families were fleeing this neighborhood school and no one from outside of the neighborhood even considered sending their children here. Bobby is keenly aware that the arts are the great leveler, and with true dedication has helped us to create a school that draws people in. The arts brídge all cultures, appeal to all classes, and engage even the most reluctant students. Bobby knows this and wholeheartedly supports our mission as a way to promote success. ln 2008 our NECAP scores showed 23% of our students were proficient in reading compared to 49% in 2013. ln 2008, 16% of our students were proficient in mathematícs, increasing to 41% in 2013. This past fall, the Agency of Education did a report on the top flve turnaround schools in the state, and IAA was at the top of this list. We have been identified as a model school by a variety of agencies in and around Vermont. The Vermont Arts Council especíally looks to the IAA as a beacon of school reform. Currently over 30% of our families come from outside of the Old North End; selecting lA/A as their "school of choice" and the IAA has a waiting list of families eager to enter the school community. Bobby Riley is the kind of administrator who is proud of our academic growth, but he doesn't put all his eggs in the scholastic basket. He is equally proud of other indicators of our success, such as truancy rates, parent involvement, student engagement and student voice, each of which has been an illustration of our turnaround. ln 2008 10% of our families turned out for parent conferences. This number is currently nearly 100%. Finally, and on a more personal note, I'd like to speak from my heart as well as from my educational experience as a public school teacher of more than twenty years. I have had the golden opportunity to work in more than one district, more than one county, and at schools that are well known for their exceptional educational programs: in particular, CVU in Hinesburg and U32 in East Montpelier. l,ve also completed the Snellíng School Leadership Project and have participated ín many additional leadership training programs. You could call me a leadership enthusiast. As a result of these experiences l've learned a great deal about what good leadership looks like. I know a good leader when I see one. When the buzz in a school is about collaboration, innovation, and equity, and when the tiniest string is plucked and a whole group of passionate educators move in unison to create an environment that is focused on exceptional learning experiences - not just for students, but for their families and for each other, that's good leadership. When students are kind to one another, and encourage each other to take risks, to work together to create solutions to problems in unexpected ways, that is good leadership. When teachers share openly and eagerly, brJildíng innovative, unified and integrated curriculum together, that's good leadership. When the larger community comes together in support of a small school bringing unprecedented opportuníties and resources that allow that school to flourísh, that's good leadership. When a failing school falters and almost becomes extinct, yet rises to become a beacon of hope, that's good leadership. lt is my heartfelt opinion that Bobby Riley is an exceptional, unparalleled candidate for principal of the year. His courageous leadership style and profound commitment to education are without a doubt, worthy of thís very high honor.

Jeanne Posted over a year ago

It is my pleasure to write on behalf of Robert Riley, a nominee for Life Changer of the Year. I have known Mr. Riley for nearly 15 years, in my roles as Director of Special Education and then Superintendent of the Burlington Schools over that span of time. The most relevant information I can share about Mr. Riley is how he came to be principal. In Burlington School District, after working with the community for three years of difficult conversation about poverty and equity, we had created two magnet schools in the highest poverty part of the city. H.O. Wheeler Elementary School, where Mr. Rileyworked as a librarian, had over 90% of its student population receiving free and reduced lunch. The school was identified as one of the lowest performing schools in the state in2008. That year, it also opened its doors as the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler, in a transformational effort to change the demographics and increase equity of opportunity in the school. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act, the school lost itsprincipal right away and an interim principal was assigned in its inaugural year. Mr. Riley took on a leadership role as school librarian, helping to shape the new model of learning and leading teacher and community committees. His dedication to the students and families and the success of the school was evident from the very beginning. Eventually, we did hire a permanent principal who turned out to be the wrong fit for the school. By December, I had to let the principal go and I asked Mr. Riley, who had already proven his leadership skills, to step into the role as interim. He did so without question and immediately began to work on calming the faculty and parent communities with a focus on student learning. A search commenced for a new principal and Mr. Riley easily floated to the surface as the strongest candidate, and he has been in this position since that time. Understanding that Mr. Riley was asked to help transform a local neighborhood school to an integrated arts model school while healing a faculty who had been in chaos for a few years, Mr. Riley more than rose to the occasion. He immediately instituted principal coffees to bring in the parent community, worked with his faculty to institute "I Can" statements and change the culture from one of "victim" to one of leadership, and put the back on the front burner. He cultivated community partnerships, identifying a need in the school such as drama coach and leveraging resources and partnerships to ensure the school met that need. He led by example, more than willing to participate in the school- community events by playing with is band or MCing a talent show and has worked with the PTO to set up annual fundraising events that also build community. Not only was H.O. Wheeler a high poverty school when Mr. Riley began there, it was in a refugee resettlement community and his English Language Learner population exploded. Rather than shy away from that challenge, Mr. Riley took it on, ensuring all 40 plus global communities came together with the local Burlingtonians and embraced the school community as their own. Demographics have changed from over 90% poverty to around 50%, as was the target, as Mr. Riley supported the magnet concept of attracting families outside the Old North End while embracing the New Americans as well. The biggest winner under Mr. Riley's leadership were the students. Student scores raised dramatically on NECAP annual tests and students became owners oftheir own learning. Arts were integrated into all aspects of learning, which actually opened the doors to many and leveled the playing field for all. Through it all, Mr. Riley has shared his vision and kept his eye on the prize as external events continued to try to intervene. His dedication to the students led to difficult decisions and creative decisions. His leadership has led to local support and national attention as well as student achievement. I fully support his nomination and I hope you give serious consideration to what he has been able to accomplish as an educational leader.

Pete Posted over a year ago

The faculty and staff of the Integrated Arts Academy (IAA) work tirelessly to meet the educational, social and emotional needs of a diverse group of young children. Over the past seven years, the IAA staff have transformed an elementary school that was at times struggling to meet the basic needs of their students, into a school that offers a magical and deeply fulfilling experience. The IAA serves the students of Burlington’s Old North End, comprising rich diversity along racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines. Many of the students attending the IAA have experienced very significant adversity and trauma in their young lifetimes, as a result of their families’ struggles with poverty and/or with having escaped the threats of war in their home countries. A significant number of the students who come to the IAA as preschoolers or kindergarteners have not yet experienced the world as safe, secure and joyful. Many of the students need to establish a basic sense of safety and the most basic ability to trust others, before they are even available for academic education. On top of this, many students are coming to American culture and the English language as brand new experiences. Amazingly, through dedicated hard work, through collaborative practices, through a focus on the importance of relationships, and through the use of the arts as a medium into their student’s hearts and minds, these dedicated educators have created a space where their students move from surviving to thriving. My professional focus for 20 years as a clinical social worker has specialized in assessing and treating families impacted by trauma. I have consulted with many schools throughout Vermont, assisting them to become trauma informed and to change their practices to be trauma sensitive. In all of my years of work and exposure to many of Vermont’s schools, I have never encountered a school that has accomplished what the IAA has. They have been leaders in Vermont on the use of arts integration in general, and in my opinion they have also been leaders in enacting broad, systems wide changes to practices that are truly trauma informed. The IAA has worked with many local agencies and artists to support and enrich the students’ and educators’ experiences. They have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to provide integrated after school and summer programming for families in need. They have partnered with the Burlington Community Health Center to provide in house medical and dental supports. Most importantly, they have partnered with the families within the Old North End community, becoming a community center that hosts multicultural events and facilitates the coming together of community members. The IAA has come to symbolize and be an actual space for welcoming and belonging, both of which are critical for healthy communities and for healing from trauma. Many schools have been working on learning about the impacts of trauma, and on shifting the approaches of educators, support staff and administrators to the needs of students. However, most schools continue to operate their larger systems such as curriculum development and responses to problematic behaviors from traditional educational models, which are not often trauma informed. The IAA has completely transformed their entire approach to education, to relationships, to collaboration and communication through the integration of the arts and through establishing community and belonging as central values. In my experience, they are the best example of a school that has made systems level changes that are truly trauma informed. The school is truly magical in its sense of healthy and joyful community. If you are uncertain, just pop in for a visit and you will FEEL it.

Aden Haji Posted over a year ago

I first met Mr Bobby in 3rd grade when I was an elementary school student at the Integrated Arts Academy. Ever since meeting him, I’ve looked up to him as a role model and positive example for the community of Burlington. At the time when I met him, he was my school librarian at IAA, now as I am in my last year at the University Of Vermont, I still frequently visit IAA to see him as principal and give me advice on my journey as a first generation college student. I know I can always depend on Mr Bobby for anything I need and that’s definitely a huge trait for someone who would be considered a life changer.

Mark Sustic Posted over a year ago

I have spent time with around and in partnership with school administrators throughout Vermont for over 30 years. I have been a teacher and administrator in public schools in Vermont, a teacher educator at the University of Vermont, and a consultant for the Vermont Agency of Education. For the past 11 years I have worked for philanthropists supporting early learning and development programs in public schools and child care programs throughout the state. I suggest there are very few people in Vermont who have known and worked with more elementary school principals. Bobby has energized and inspired students, staff, families and community members in one of the most diverse and economically challenged schools in the entire state. I have been around the Integrated Arts Academy before and during it's transition to an arts magnet school. What is happening there is astounding. Our most talented educators want to work there. Our most engaged families want their children to attend. Every student I am aware of arrives and leaves excited, energized and inspired. There is of course no singular reason why people love the school so much, are so committed to it, why there it has been so successful. But there is no doubt that the most important single ingredient has been Bobby. I have not met or seen in action a more talented, energetic, committed or resourceful school leader. If I had a child that was still school-age, there is no one I would entrust more with their care and learning then Bobby and the people who care and work beside him.

Topaz Weis Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Bobby, this recognition is well deserved. You jumped into arts integration as an outsider, and have made it youir own. Thank you for your dedication to the form and for all you are doing to help it grow.

Tyler Doggett Posted over a year ago

Bobby is an inspiration, a call to get involved and a model for how to do it. He is devoted, hard-working, humane, kind, passionate, persistent, realistic, and straightforward. He makes his school feel like a home.

Maura ONeill Posted over a year ago

Bobby Rikey is a huge asset to the educational community in vermont. The kids, parents, teachers, staff, and city are incredibly lucky to have such a caring principal.

Valerie Lodish Posted over a year ago

We have been very lucky as parents to have three children who have been at IAA with Bobby Riley. As we watched the older two go through the grades we would often visit the school for Monday Morning Meetings where the whole school comes together as a community before the week starts, and Friday Town Meetings where the whole school comes together again to celebrate the learning that occurred that week in school. The children all love him and it's so clear from his interactions with students that he deeply cares for all students in that building. It wasn't however until my youngest child began his education at IAA that we truly understood how amazing Mr. Bobby was in his role as principal. For my youngest, school isn't such an easy place to be all the time... and for two parents who are also teachers, the past two years have been hard on all of us. Mr. Bobby has always been there to listen, help, come up with new plans and strategies (all without judgement)... and most importantly make us feel better about who our son is as an individual and as a member of the IAA community. We can't thank him enough for all the work he has done for us and all the students at IAA.

Julie Bryant Posted over a year ago

, Bob Riley is an amazing principal and has made amazing changes at the school and is loved by his students

Teal Doggett Posted over a year ago

My family has been fortunate enough to be part of the IAA community for the last six years. Through Mr. Bobby's guidance it is a thriving, exciting and welcoming community for all of its students, their families and community members. As a parent I always feel welcome in the school and am given many ways to be involved with my students education. This has allowed me to become a bigger part of my community as a whole, to become more aware of the diversity that exists outside of my little bubble, and the challenges and strengths that diversity add to our city and our world. The lessons taught in the school about inclusiveness and growth have made me a better person, and they have an even greater positive impact on the students of the school. Mr. Bobby works tirelessly for his students and his staff and is well deserving of this reward.

Bob Posted over a year ago

Bobby, I’ve known you first as a young, bright, talented, enthusiastic lad at Flynn School many years ago to who you have become today. There is satisfaction and reward for a teacher to see a former student step up from the next generation and show the leadership, commitment and ability to inspire and move both students and teachers to reach for higher goals not only in education but as good people in this great yet troubled society. This is what you do. I am proud of you and happy to see the beat go on! Congratulations!

Dan Cahill Posted over a year ago

Mr. Bobby’s leadership is as authentic as it comes. He has always cared deeply about his school community first and foremost. From his time as school librarian to now principal he has invoked his well honed skills of patience and persistence to keep relationships at the forefront of the school culture. I’m so happy to know that we such a caring and creative individual as principal at IAA.

Jeff Mather Posted over a year ago

Some community leaders and leaders in education resist change. Bobby Riley, on the other hand, is a change maker. A very thoughtful change maker. The quality of his work as an educator and community leader is exemplary. There are many other school principals who I’d like to suggest go shadow him for a couple days. Let’s amplify the ripples of change radiating out from IAA!

Ara Finlayson Posted over a year ago

When we were deciding where to send our son and toured IAA, we really liked what we saw of the school - but we loved Mr. Bobby. From the way he knew every child's name we passed in the hall, to the time he spent to really listen to every parent and every child, to his all over positive energy, he sealed the deal. IAA is a special place made up of so many different people and elements - but we truly believe that the driving force that unites them all is Bobby. He is kind, and gentle, and students (and parents!) respond to that; he is also determined to bring out the best in the staff and students, is committed to bringing the most up to date learning methods to IAA with a focus on mindfulness and being present; and makes every student feel valued and important. I cannot say enough good things about him nor could I imagine anyone who would be more deserving of this award. He is an exceptional principal who embodies the values of the school and his community. We are so lucky to have him. Our son has been at IAA for 2.5 years now and we can't wait to also send our daughter in a few years when she is old enough for Kindergarten.

Tyler Bolles Posted over a year ago

I'll wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of the nominator and other commenters, and just add one example of the effort Mr. Bobby puts in to making each child feel valued and loved. We have a school with a wonderfully diverse population of students, many of which come from refugee families from around the world. Their names are not generally typical to Vermont, and can be a challenge to learn to pronounce. Somehow, by early in the school year Mr. Bobby knows every student by name, and pronounces their names they way they do, which is so important. Mispronouncing somebody's name, not making the effort to learn to pronounce it correctly, is a microaggression that teaches the student they are different, not normal, their name is weird and not worth learning. The shy student who is still learning English might not bother to correct a grownup and might internalize the feeling of being an outsider. Learning so many new names with new sounds from small children who may be shy and mumble and whisper when they speak is a real challenge that many people don't bother with...either creating nicknames or sticking with mispronunciations that are easier. Mr. Bobby accepts that challenge, and makes the school that much more welcoming to all of these wonderful kids, showing them that they are important to him and the school. That's one small detail about him that blows me away, an example of how much energy he puts in to making the school such a love-filled, comfortable place for everybody. He absolutely deserves to be recognized!

Tracey Gilbert Dengler Posted over a year ago

Since the first day that we toured IAA (six years ago), Mr Bobby has impressed us with his leadership, his energy, his compassion, his willingness to go the extra mile to make our children feel empowered and engaged. It has taken patience and commitment but every step of the way both of my children have felt supported, validated, and stronger for all of their interactions with Mr. Bobby. Going to the principals office is not scary and punitive, it's a chance to think and learn, to express feelings and emotion, to be heard and to regulate. While the staff at IAA is incredible, without a doubt they are among the most committed and passionate teachers I have ever met, the leadership at the school is also unique and exceptional...strong in a way that supports and lifts everyone up. Mr Bobby leads by example and by inspiring others to reach a little deeper, think a little harder, and do a little better every day. Does he make a positive impact on the lives of students, yes, a million times every day by the smallest of gestures. Does he nurture the learning environment, yes, without a doubt. Does he create a culture of joy and inclusion and pride, yes. In 2016-17 he was recognized as a National Distinguished Principle by NAESP, "Riley’s modeling of socio- emotional and intellectual learning through multiple modes and building meaningful relationships with the most challenging students has established him as a transformational leader" (https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/BobbyRiley.pdf). He is a morale booster. He is a positive person and he makes positive changes happen. And he does everything through the lens of the arts. I am grateful every day that my kids are at IAA and that my family is part of the community. Thank you Mr. Bobby!

Nicole A Seligson Posted over a year ago

One of the main reasons I wanted my daughter to attend IAA was because of the principal Bobby Riley. Not only does he have a great reputation for being such an engaged and caring principal, but I worked at the school back in 2004 and remembered him from when he was an amazing librarian. Now, our family feels blessed that Mr Riley is the principal at our daughter's school because he is kind, caring, always available, and always present. He takes time for each child, is collaborative in nature and in processes. Bobby has also brought restorative circles into the school, helping students to be a part of their own processes, learning and growing as a community. Bobby shares his innate passion for diversity and inclusiveness and approaches all students and families with his whole heart! We feel honored to be a part of the IAA community and so pleased and frankly relieved to be able to depend on such a fantastic principal!

Dov Stucker Posted over a year ago

The Integrated Arts Academy is the diverse, dynamic, messy, wonderful beating heart of a community steeped in both creativity and trauma. But if the school is its beating heart, Bobby is its soul. His ability to manage a complex institution is laudable, but far more impressive are the "soft skills" he brings to his job role. He has an uncanny ability to meet people where they are at--from age 3 to age 93--and to be fully present with them, no matter if they bring him joy or gritty challenges. He listens. He reflects. He convenes healing circles. He plays folk songs. And, most importantly, he invests: He invests in teaching professionals who work every minute of every day to nurture our most vulnerable community members. He invests in parents, encouraging their voices and engagement. And he invests in kids. There is a reason he is loved--because his love is a verb.

Rachel Jolly Posted over a year ago

I couldn't agree more! Mr. Bobby's focus on social-emotional health in the primary grades won me over from the time my daughter started K at IAA. He is a champion of using restorative practices in the schools, a fountain of positivity and a wonderful role model for staff and students. I feel so lucky to be an IAA parent!

Mr.Robert and Linda Goulette Posted over a year ago

We have known Bobby Riley his whole life. He has always been a caring and upstanding individual. He talks about how much he loves his job, and spending time with the children. His staff loves working with him. We cannot think of anyone who deserves this award than him. We are certain all your candidates are very worthy of this award.

Jamie Garvey Posted over a year ago

I will always remember the time I was in the office waiting to pick up my son and I noticed Mr Bobby in his office playing the guitar for a student. We were new to the school, so this was a total surprise to me. I could tell the student was in there because he was having a hard time. As they exited, I was struck by the rapport Mr Bobby had with this student, the thoughtful and respectful way he spoke to him about how he could better handle the problem next time, and the way the child responded with a calm, mutual respect. He had clearly just come out of a situation that really upset him, and Mr Bobby not only made him feel supported and heard, but gave him some good coping skills for how to handle that situation in the future. Knowing my son can have some problems at school with managing his anxiety, seeing this interaction made me feel like we chose the right school.

Deb Dorfman Posted over a year ago

Bobby Riley goes above and beyond for each and every one of his students, there is no better man for this award. Bobby is a caring and nurturing person who does not hesitate to do what he can for all.. we need more men like him in our lives.

Kelly Posted over a year ago

Bobby, inam honored to say that I know you. You have done some incredible things for the school and the city of Burlington!!!! Your community is lucky you have you.

Margie Nesson Posted over a year ago

IAA is an amazing school and community. I totally agree with the noninators assessment and believe that Bobby Riley is most deserving of this recognition. He is an esteemed leader of an extraordinary staff of talented and dedicated educators.

Colby Kervick Posted over a year ago

Through Bobby's leadership, the Integrated Arts Academy has blossomed into a school that is not only deeply committed to the arts and student learning, but is also deeply committed to community. It's rare to find a school that is so welcoming to families of all backgrounds and Bobby actively strives to promote that inclusivity and to work with parent leaders and community members to showcase the diversity and unique gifts that all students and parents bring to school. He also is an engaged leader equally comfortable leading a staff meeting, or grabbing his guitar to show up in a classroom and accompany students showcasing their learning. This recognition of the work Bobby is doing to foster a dynamic and inspired learning community and to build community within and among stakeholders is noteworthy and very much deserving of recognition.

Gail and Bob Riley Posted over a year ago

We know he puts all his heart into his work he as always cared about people and very sensitive to concerns of other people. We are so proud of our son and the man he is today our hearts just swell with pride.