Voices from the Field: PA 3-13 and School Safety

Submitted by Michelle Weaver, Technical Assistance Provider

As each cohort moves through the phases of training, staff should begin to see connections between CT’s SPDG, specifically building behavioral support systems, and the multiple requirements for schools from the legislature. Public Act 11-232, name, provides specific requirements for safe school climate committees. . Public Act13-3, An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, addresses the format for school safety plans and also updates some requirements for safe school climate committees. Our aim is for schools to see their work on behavior support systems as a viable means for meeting many of the legislative requirements around school climate and school safety.

PA 13-3 provides a model for school districts and school buildings to meet requirements for school security and safety plans. The table below includes details of the law, summarizing the duties of state agencies, Boards, and schools. The Act also revises the duties of the Safe School Climate Committee to include in its data collection disturbing or threatening behavior that does not rise to the level of bullying.

PA 13-3 Sections 86-88
CT Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) and CT State Department of Education (CSDE) Local and Regional Boards – July 2014 and forward Schools – July 2012 and forward
Immediate Duties
  Develop and implement plan for school security and safety at each school, based on the state plan Principal establishes or designates existing committee responsible for safe school climate and addressing issues related to bullying Committee includes 1 parent/guardian* of enrolled student.
January 1, 2014 and forward
Consult with CSDE to develop standards for school security and safety that include:
  1. Involvement of local officials, including
    • CEO of municipality
    • Superintendent of schools
    • Law enforcement
    • Fire
    • Public health
    • Emergency management
    • Emergency medical services
  2. Command center organization structure with described responsibilities
  3. Requirement for school safety committees
  4. Crisis management procedures
  5. Requirement of local public safety authorities to evaluate, score, and provide feedback on crisis response drills
  6. Requirement of annual reports to DESPP on drills
  7. Emergency management procedures
  8. Requirement of board to assess each school’s security and vulnerability biannually and develop related plan
  9. Requirement that each school climate safety committee collect and evaluate disturbing/threatening instances that fall below bullying definition and report them to district coordinator
  10. Requirement that each school’s plan allows for employee orientation and provides violence prevention training
Establish school security and safety committee at each school, with the following members:
  1. Local police officer
  2. Local first responder
  3. Teacher employed at school
  4. Administrator employed at school
  5. Mental health professional
  6. Parent/guardian of enrolled student
  7. Any other person board deems necessary

Parent/guardian excluded from information reported from school safety committee

Committee tasks:
  1. Receive completed reports after investigations of bullying
  2. Identify and address patterns of bullying among students
  3. Implement provisions for collection, evaluation, and reporting of disturbing/threatening behavior that does not meet bullying definition
  4. Review and amend school policies related to bullying
  5. Review safe school climate plan and make recommendations to district safe school climate coordinator
  6. Provide students, staff, and families on bullying issues
  7. Collaborate with the district safe school climate coordinator to collect bullying data
  8. Other related duties as determined by the principal

*Parent/guardian excluded from tasks 1-3

January 1, 2014 and annually
DESPP submits standards and recommendations for legislation to General Assembly Submit reviewed and updated plans to DESPP annually  

Published: February 10, 2015

Voices from the Field: James H. Naylor CCSU Leadership Academy

Submitted by Nicole Vitale, Technical Assistance Provider

James H. Naylor CCSU Leadership Academy, a Cohort 3 school in Phase 2 of SPDG implementation, is very committed to family and community engagement. Most of the students of this neighborhood school walk each day with a family member or friends. Every day, administrators and teachers greet their students and families at the door to welcome them to school. This not only provides parents with an opportunity to “check in” with staff, it also provides a positive interaction for students first thing in the morning. In addition, it allows educators to see if any students are coming to school with anything that needs to be addressed before the school day begins.

Last year, as parents and community members gathered to conduct a Welcoming Walkthrough, they noted a number of recommendations to help create a more welcoming and inviting culture and climate in their school. Some of the priority areas included fixing old signage and adding welcoming signs to the building, updating the school website so that parents could readily have access to information, and more positive teacher-parent interactions. Naylor took feedback from the walkthrough very seriously and made some changes to their school almost instantly.

Upon our first visit to the school this year, we saw new welcome signs, clear directions to the main office, and a completely new school website. The site included updated information about school programs as well as PTA updates and resources for families, students, and teachers. In addition, since the Welcoming Walkthrough and initial work with PBIS, teachers are expected to have a positive note sent home to families for at least three students per month.

Naylor is well on its way to creating a welcoming school climate and culture!

Published: January 15, 2015

Voices from the Field: Regional School District 4 – Valley Regional High School

Submitted by Janet Zarchen, Technical Assistance Provider

As a Cohort 2 school, Valley Regional High School in Deep River, CT is in its third year of grant implementation. Jessica Dwyer, an English teacher and a member of the SPDG school leadership team, shared the following thoughts about how participation in the grant has impacted her classroom practice.

I feel I have a better “tool box” now from which to choose student support options. The training on accommodations vs. modifications coupled with the CRT (culturally relevant/responsive teaching) training allows for many avenues to approach a student and identify and address his or her needs. The grant process has given me the opportunity to question my practice and discuss philosophy again with my colleagues in a time that we are all so caught up with the logistics of evaluation. It helps keep the student in the center of the discussion and emphasize the roles my colleagues have in which we can support one another in supporting the student.

Published: December 17, 2014

Voices from the Field: TAPping into our SPDG schools

Submitted by Janet Zarchen, Technical Assistance Provider

Being a technical assistance provider (TAP) to SPDG schools is never boring! It is a complex job, and that is exactly why I love it. Here are some aspects of being a TAP:

  • Providing information. TAPs come from different backgrounds, have experience in different roles, and hold unique areas of expertise such as special education, literacy, or math. TAPs use their knowledge to support the schools to achieve the goals of the grant. TAPs also keep schools on track with logistics such as training dates, data collection, and required documentation.
  • Getting information. SERC provides all TAPs with training to make sure we have the knowledge necessary to guide the schools. We need to understand the content—PBIS, SRBI, literacy—and how it applies to each particular school. At the same time, we find ourselves learning something new from the schools’ own innovative practices.
  • Building relationships with school teams. Because the grant spans several years, we really get to know the schools and the leadership team members. Fostering change in schools is enhanced through building these relationships.
  • Helping schools, teachers, and students. The last aspect of being a TAP is nudging and supporting the schools in their reflection and growth. Watching schools and teachers change their practice and positively impact outcomes for students is the most rewarding part of the grant.

Published: December 5, 2014

Voices from the Field: Nonnewaug High School, Region 14: Implementing PBIS at the High School Level

Submitted by Nikki Hendry, Technical Assistance Provider

Nonnewaug - Honesty

The SPDG leadership team at Nonnewaug High School recognized that student input would be valuable to the process of rolling out PBIS practices in its common areas.

Nonnewaug - Respect

Students were given an opportunity to create products that represented the school’s three expectations of Honesty, Respect, and Perseverance. The student body voted for their favorites, including posters, artwork, and a story about how a mysterious cloaked figure tried to influence the students to break the rules. The artwork is displayed throughout the school, and one of the posters created by students became the banners that hang in the hallways. The leadership team was able to have some of the common areas spruced up to include a television to share announcements, fresh paint, and posters of the behavioral expectations for these areas.

Nonnewaug - Perseverance

For the rollout in the common areas, which include the hallways, bathrooms, lobby, and auditorium, the SPDG team developed the behavior matrix with input from staff and students. Lessons were developed, and the expectations were taught to the students during the advisory period that is built into the schedule.

Staff have been giving students tickets for following the behavior expectations. Students even offered a “flip the ticket” idea, in which students give tickets to staff. This has helped build excitement about implementing PBIS as the school moves forward with rollout in other areas of the building.

Published: November 7, 2014

Voices from the Field: Thelma Ellis Dickerson’s Jumoke Academy Elementary School

Submitted by Veronica Marion, Technical Assistance Provider

Welcoming Walkthroughs are designed to help schools become a more inviting place where everyone feels safe, students want to learn, staff want to work, and families and community members want to be involved. Welcoming Walkthrough committees include 12 stakeholders consisting of six parents (including parents of students with disabilities), two community members (such as a local business owner, firefighter, or member of the Board of Education or Town Council), and four school staff members (e.g., teachers, office staff, media specialists, and a custodian). High schools are encouraged to include 1-2 student representatives as well. SERC consultants and partners facilitate the walkthrough.

Jack Jackter Intermediate School
The Jumoke TED Leadership Team sporting the new slogan at the PBIS rollout

The committee members walk the school with a clipboard and pen to measure the “welcoming-ness” of the school and school grounds, such as the amount of signage, whether the central office is inviting, and information available in languages spoken by parents in the community. Computer stations are available for participants to also review the school website. The schools provide meeting space for walkthrough participants, facilitators, and 1-2 members of the school’s SPDG Leadership Team to discuss outcomes and action steps.

Jumoke TED has a new principal this year, Dr. Michael Finley, but the school SPDG Leadership Team has not skipped a beat! The team successfully tackled several recommendations from the Welcoming Walkthrough committee, such as increasing signage in the parking lot to make it easier to navigate the school and grounds, redesigning the website to be more resourceful for families, and creating opportunities to engage families more frequently.

“I feel re-energized working with the grant. [It] feels like a college course!” – Jumoke TED Leadership Team member

Teachers are committed to building relationships with families during pick-up and drop-off, seizing every opportunity to get to know them better. The school has also launched a “Can We Talk” school-wide informal potluck dinner with the entire staff, students, and families, allowing everyone to interact in an informal atmosphere.

The school’s implementation of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) has focused on promoting a positive environment. Its PBIS design is made up of paw prints surrounding the slogan, “Are you leaving a Pawsitive Print?”

Members of the Leadership Team were asked what they have learned since participating in the grant…

  • The benefits of engaging/sharing the purpose and outcomes of the grant with the entire staff
  • Looking at systems within our school
  • The importance of reflecting on my practice as a teacher

Published: October 29, 2014

Voices from the Field: Jack Jackter Intermediate School, Colchester

Submitted by Jeremy Bond, SERC Publications Coordinator

When describing the impact of SPDG at Jack Jackter, Principal Deborah Sandberg cites three areas:

  • School climate. The welcoming walkthrough led to low-cost and no-cost ways to promote a more welcoming environment, such as signage.
  • Higher-order thinking skills. Jack Jackter participates in the Higher-Order Thinking (HOT) Schools Program, which incorporates a rigorous arts curriculum, the integration of art into other disciplines, and promoting democratic processes through shared leadership. As SPDG has helped support effective classroom practice, Deborah has seen former struggling students shining through artistic expression.
  • An engaged staff who feel committed to the school and invested in the students’ success.
Jack Jackter Intermediate School
Jack Jackter Intermediate School

SERC Consultant Anthony Brisson facilitated a review of the levels of intervention. The special education team reviewed the data over time, and too many students had been identified as requiring Tier III interventions, resulting in a kind of “hourglass” of Tiers I and III. General education teachers now have more tools at their disposal to support interventions early and reduce the numbers of students who would have been expected to receive Tier III interventions.

Under SPDG, the school has established clear, targeted SMART goals, determined how to measure progress toward those goals, and learned to revise the process as needed. The result has been more focus on Tier I and fewer kids struggling at reading. Through strategies such as co-teaching, staff have been better able to work with students as individuals.

Deborah credits Anthony with helping the staff and school leadership envision new approaches they had not thought of before.

“He listens to what we’re doing, [and then] he asks questions to make us think.”

Published: October 1, 2014