The job of our school district is to ensure that we are a welcoming, tolerant, open place for all students and families. It’s hard to do that if we don’t know what those individual personalities need and expect from their school district.
To that end, the district is working with Common Thread Consultants. Common Thread provides ‘Cultural Brokering’ services to neighboring districts and have provided guidance to local businesses and community groups facing the same challenges or questions.
Common Thread interviewed high school and middle school students and staff last spring to determine the district’s shortcomings and to understand our students and how to improve. They also attended each Meet the Teacher Night this year to talk to parents. Now, it is the community’s turn to help us on this path.
Connection Circles will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Dec. 6, Feb. 7, April 11 and June 6 at the high school library. The last one was held on Oct. 18. The school district wants to hear from families in the community as we try to better understand the needs of their children. The sessions, which are open to parents and students, will be run by Damonni Farley from Common Thread.
“In conversations with kids, some of them are struggling in school,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum Karen Swain. “They’ve said they don’t feel connected to teachers, students or other staff here or to school. They don’t feel engaged. We want to be sure all kids feel engaged.”
She said some of the information from students was not new. “Kids told us that we don’t connect or understand them. That’s not dramatically new information, but they are saying that they are not connecting because of who they are,” said Swain. She said that those comments often came from students who were minorities and those questioning their sexuality, or those feeling on the “fringes” of school.
She said the larger goal of this initiative is to improve how students and staff interact with each other every day. “How do we engage with each other? How are we treating each other?,” she asked. “What words do we use? We are asking kids and adults to be more thoughtful in their interactions with each other and to think before they say something.”