From the Superintendent: Focusing on School Climate

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Colleagues:

A school’s academic and social environment can have a profound effect on every person in the building. As a staff member, you need to be “in a good place” yourself before you can give students your full attention. As we come ever closer to the winter break, I encourage you to allow enough time to rest and recharge.

The second part of the school year always brings fresh promise and new ways to look at our work. I am happy to tell you, after planning that dates back at least two years, we have created a new Department of School Climate and Support (DSCS) in the Office of College and Career Readiness.

Led by Jon Peterson and Kathy Lombardi, the DSCS will bring new focus to important school climate efforts that have been taking place in SPPS for years, from school counseling and social work to PBIS, mental health supports and referral, restorative practices and much more. We are not adding staff, but we are aligning resources we already have to use them more wisely and strategically -- a key component to our restorative practices proposal to the teacher’s union.

The climate in any given school comes down to relationships. If we adults, among ourselves, can create and support healthy relationships -- rooted in honesty, dedication and trust, and tended carefully with language that conveys respect even amid disagreement -- then we can be true role models for our students.

And when we can build similar trusting, respectful relationships with our young people and with one another as adults, we are making progress toward positive school and district-wide climates that encourage kids to be there every day and learn as much as they can. Then our schools become places where adults also want to be, not only because they feel needed but because they feel valued.

I want to offer my gratitude to our teachers and the hundreds of counselors, social workers, school psychologists, PBIS coaches, paraprofessionals and support staff who have been doing school “climate” work since before it was known by that name. Your ideas and opinions will be vital as the DSCS’s work begins, so expect to be asked for them. My hope is that the new DSCS will focus greater attention on what you do. Our goal is to support your efforts as educators in helping our young people learn and achieve, and to make our schools the premier places for learning -- and working -- we believe they can be.

For now, my friends, be preparing for a little down time. You’ve earned it.

Your very proud superintendent,

 

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Valeria Silva