Equity, empathy and engagement on display at conference

Area schools participated in piloting restorative culture practices

On May 18, six teams from local schools got together with other educators, social workers and facilitators to discuss the various methodologies they had piloted to help improve the culture of their schools.

According to Jamie Hansen, Communication Specialist with the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), in the 2016-17 school year, SCOE used a grant from the county Board of Supervisors to launch a Restorative Culture Collaborative. The aim of the collaborative was to build positive culture, improve student emotional health and reduce suspensions and expulsions.

This school year, SCOE deepened that effort through a second iteration of the Restorative Culture Collaborative. “It also created an even more intensive group of six schools that really wanted to dig in and figure out how they could make a difference at their school in one very focused effort, then work from there to spread restorative culture throughout their school and district,” said Hansen.

This effort was called the E3 Community of Practice (E3 stands for Equity, Empathy and Engagement) and it was facilitated by a nationally recognized leader in system-wide change, Becky Margiotta, according to Hansen.

The E3 Community of Practice wrapped up its efforts in the event on May 18. The six teams shared the work they’ve done this year to measurably improve empathy, equity and engagement at their school sites. The six teams/schools were the Guerneville School, Windsor High School, Olivet Charter School, Thomas Page Academy, Analy High School and the Apple Blossom School.

Prior to the presentation, audience members were asked to give feedback in the form of “I like, I wish, I wonder, what if” and presenters were asked to not respond to the feedback, but rather simply say, “Thank you.”

The Guerneville School’s goal was to increase second graders’ pride in themselves by 50 percent. The team from Guerneville School was comprised of Dana Pedersen, Superintendent Amber Stringfellow, Principal and several teachers.

The team reported they didn’t see a whole lot of change until the “Toolbox” program was implemented and they began to start and end each day with appreciation for each other.

This practice involves the entire class saying something they appreciate about another class member. While their data shows that they overall reached their goal, there were days when student pride fell back below the median level. However, an unintended but positive side effect of the practices was that teachers reported a rise in the level of risk taking in the classroom.