Community Workshop Results

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Dear Binghamton Families,

We’d like to, again, thank all that participated in the district’s first ever Thoughtexchange! We received a tremendous amount of feedback about the district’s strengths, and areas where our community would like to see improvement and growth. From that feedback, five main themes emerged: Academics, Arts and Athletics, Code of Conduct, Diversity, Relationships, and School Safety. These themes served as the central focuses of our community workshop on Tuesday, June 18. Below you will find the handouts from the community workshop, which outline some of the top thoughts in each category.

We had great attendance at our community workshop, and we’d like to extend our appreciation to all who participated. I was so pleased with the amount of input and thoughtful dialogue. It is through solution-oriented conversations that growth takes place. As a district, we are continually striving to educate, empower and challenge our students, and we appreciate our community’s partnership in that effort.

You will also find some notes that include suggestions and solutions that were discussed at the workshop. This feedback will be used to help us identify action items for the coming school year. Thank you again for your dedication and commitment to the success of our students!   

With Patriot Pride,
Tonia

Academics Thoughts

OUTCOME FROM COMMUNITY WORKSHOP – June 18, 2019

Academics, Arts and Athletics:

The following thoughts will be forwarded to the District Arts Task Force, District Athletics Task Force and to the Director of Curriculum/Department Chairs for their consideration and identification of action steps.

Study Halls are scheduled for all at the secondary schools and are not always needed.

Potential Solutions: Provide students with alternatives that they can self-select when needed. Consider putting in maker spaces, where students would find activities of interest and ask students what they would like to see in these spaces.

There are several after-school activities in the arts and athletics where the participation rates are low.

Potential Solutions: Provide transportation to and from practices. Include parents as participants in the activities, similar to the district’s Arts Partners.

There is a lack of student voice in curriculum and instruction.

Potential Solutions: Ask for student input on the development of courses and on how instruction can best be delivered via a formal, consistently applied tool. Include questions such as “I like... I wonder about .... I think about ...” Ask each student to answer the question, “What do I need to know about you to make me a better teacher?” Consider engaging all ninth graders in reading and exploring a self-discovery book. Look to see how course electives can support student needs and interests.

Seat time requirements for courses can be a barrier.

Potential Solutions: Explore the development of courses that are a blend of online learning and seat time.

Having to teach the required components of the curriculum can be a barrier to providing real-world, experiential opportunities. Bring back the joy in the classroom.

Potential Solutions: Frame courses as opportunities for co-learning (teacher and student). Embed project-based learning opportunities throughout the district. Demonstrate to teachers how project-based learning translates to “test scores.”

There is a disconnect between the grades students receive and their performance on state assessments.

Potential Solutions: Institute standards-based grading. Incorporate a minimum numeric grade in all classes that correlates to performance-based learning. Add more career education in the elementary school.

How do we know if all students have access to challenging and engaging material?

Potential Solutions: Find a way to measure student engagement and report to the community an analysis of class grades and performance on Regents. Have teachers use and complete interest surveys as part of entry into a course/class. Change the language on all high school course syllabi to “What we want to learn and accomplish this year.” Identify interests, expertise, and value early on in school so students feel important and able to learn.

We need to engage more students in caring about something outside of their immediate world.

Potential Solutions: Ask all students what they can do to make the community better? Engage students in a Day of Caring. Define what community service looks like and communicate these opportunities to our students.

Other thoughts/comments:

• Increase the networking opportunities in the district among teachers so there is time to share.

• Use unstructured time to find out about interests and talents. Use department time to share best practices.

• Name communications with parents Learning Letters rather than Newsletters.

• Use social media to showcase student work and what is happening.

• Establish and understand the profile of each student.

• Challenge Teachers can go in and out of classrooms to see and make connections, get new ideas and work with students from different levels. How do we provide similar opportunities for all teachers?

• Through our instruction, we need to ask students to share a piece of learning and then connect on a personal level to draw them in. Students want to be treated like adults, to be listened to. Try not to dictate what we want from students.

• The learner of today is not the learner of 10 years ago. Different modalities need to be utilized. How do we create an environment that is conducive to their learning?

• Participation counts more than it should for a course grade.

• We need to rethink how we provide interventions and at what expense. If a student is struggling, why should they miss out on an art or music that is of interest?
Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct

The following thoughts from the Community Workshop will be forwarded to the Behavior Task Force for their consideration:

When dealing with behavior we often jump to a consequence rather than to truly what is needed.

Potential Solutions: Train all staff on understanding the “why?” behind the behavior and how their behavior connects to the relationships our students have with our faculty and staff. The district should provide more communication about what it is doing that is proactive and the data that demonstrates the interventions are working as it relates to the code of conduct. More communication with families about issues and solutions.

There is too much emphasis on punitive reactions (Verbal and non-verbal) from staff when students are late or not in attendance.


Potential Solutions: Provide more consistency with faculty and staff responses, and outreach in an effort to change the culture around responses to tardiness. Include professional development on the impact our language has on our student behavior and subsequent relationships. Our community needs more support to provide adequate and affordable housing. Provide spaces for students to wash clothes and take a shower. Identify why our students are late or not in school by asking them. Identify whether we are giving consequences because of their circumstances.

There is a connection between social promotion and behavior issues.

Potential Solutions: Investigate the connection between reading on grade level and behavior problems. What does the research say regarding social promotion? Create an induction program for students who transfer in, performing at lower levels than expected to help expedite their progress.


There are issues with the current transportation that is provided for students.

Potential Solutions: Put together a walking bus system; Transportation for all. (BC Transit gets to BHS at 8:05 a.m.). Promote marketing around bus driver positions, highlighting why this is a great job opportunity. Transportation for all at the elementary level. More support from BC transit.


There is a lack of understanding as to how the code of conduct is used.


Potential Solutions: Provide parents with a snapshot of the code of conduct so that they can have better access. Conduct parent cafes, which have a different look and feel to curriculum nights or an open house. Utilize more restorative practices.


General Comments:


• “The district does nothing to protect white children is alarming.” (in reference to the recent ThoughtExchange.

• Absence Management System needs to be reviewed as letters are going out for approved absences.

• Are we enabling our students? What does it mean to give a “Kid” pass?
Diversity Thoughts

Diversity


The following thoughts from the Community Workshop will be forwarded to the District Diversity and Equity Committee for their consideration:

We need to build relationships with and among teachers and aides.

Potential Solutions: We need a process to address concerns raised by aides. We also need to recognize the knowledge that aides have about our students.


How do we assess district priorities as they relate to meeting the needs of a diverse population of students? How do we know the special needs of our students, in particular, the over and underrepresented sub-groups?

Potential Solution: Make these objectives of the District Diversity and Equity Task Force


We need to improve faculty development and their use of restorative practices, inclusion, equity, race relations, and special needs.

Potential Solutions: Increase professional development to provide training that is on-going, culturally responsive, required and well resourced. The district currently invests nearly $500,000 annually in professional development that includes each of the areas stated.


We need to identify student interests.

Potential Solution: Utilize interest inventories across all classrooms.


There is a lack of training for aides hired after September 1.

Potential Solution: Provide training mid-year minimally to include restorative practices and how to talk to students.


Faculty and staff are not representative of the student population, sending a message of exclusion, and lack of role models. The district needs to increase bi-lingual staff.

Potential Solutions: Increase diversity of faculty and staff through the use of head hunters and targeting colleges enrolled predominately with students of color. Promote the diversity of our students. Bring more individuals of color into the school and include additional images of our students throughout our schools. Create an original at BHS “Grow Our Own” staff. Include students as part of the recruitment process.
Relationship thoughts

Relationships

The following thoughts from the Community Workshop will be forwarded to the Behavior Task Force for their consideration:

Morning Meetings at the elementary level model and promote communication and relationships. This does not carry into secondary.


Potential solutions: Each of the middle schools has a daily student conferencing period. The workshop group suggested an expansion of a conferencing or homeroom at the high school.


Sustaining and repairing relationships should be embedded as on-going opportunities.

Potential Solutions: The district currently uses restorative practices in the form of SPARKS, 60 second relate breaks, and classroom treatment agreements at the elementary and middle school. The workshop group suggested doing some of these in the whole building across the loudspeaker with a focus on social-emotional well-being, rather than academics.


Faculty and staff do not realize the tone of voice used, non-verbal communication and how their choice of words affects students. Teachers do not realize how differently they treat kids based on how much they like or dislike them. Sometimes relationships are not formed between teachers and students. This can be followed by a communication breakdown.

Potential Solutions: Conduct an assembly at the start of the year. Allow students and staff learn together the impact verbal and non-verbal communications have on others. This will help both groups understand different forms of communication. Include all staff, inclusive of cafeteria and transportation. Encourage and monitor how adults are modeling healthy communications.


How can we change the culture of communication so everyone is heard? This is a school and community issue with regard to talking about Binghamton CSD students.

Potential Solutions: Continue and promote positive communication that reflects all students equitably.


If we offer training, how do we ensure participation and learning?


Potential Solutions:
The district has an established professional development plan that includes required professional development for all faculty and staff. These trainings include Responsive Classroom, Guided Discipline, Restorative Practices, Sexual Harassment, Anti-bullying, Implicit Bias and Cultural Awareness. To ensure faculty and staff use, administrators provide feedback through observations. Each building has a Shared Leadership Team, which sets a goal around the implementation of this or any other training, and then monitors their implementation.


Teachers need to increase their communication with parents and demonstrate an interest in getting to know their students.


Potential Solutions:
Encourage faculty to interact more, using the remind application or texting to increase communications. Faculty should also be encouraged to attend outside events like sports, drama, band, etc.


Increase access to teachers in more informal settings so that deeper relationships can be built.


Potential solutions: One teacher used small lunch groups to connect and rotated through different groups of students.


Curriculum Night at BHS needs to change to promote relationships.

Potential Solutions: Create opportunities for families to meet with teachers via a grade-level night. Consider moving the Curriculum Night to November.


We need more opportunities to hear from students.

Potential Solutions:
Can we conduct an evening workshop with students. We need to showcase students and success at every board meeting. Could the requirement be part of a class? The district currently has at least one student group present before the board meeting. All buildings can showcase their students, and it is requested that each year a different group is highlighted by a building.


Other thoughts/comments:

• Relationships with students with disabilities are huge. If relationships are not established, then communication breaks down.

• Some perceive giving an apology as a loss of power. We need to demonstrate that by re-establishing the relationship we gain our voice back. This is demonstrated through Classroom Circles as the talking piece moves around the circle.

• Share photos and thoughts of faculty and staff to show students their human side.

• Issues can start outside the school and move in. Teachers need to show respect and keep their egos in check.

• Some students perceive the attention received by a teacher as favoritism.

• When I go into the high school I greet every teacher. I let them know ‘you are going to love me or hate me.’

• How do we get buy-in with teachers during mandatory training?

• We cannot run out the door at 2:45. Teachers need to be accessible outside of the classes they teach.

• What can we do to connect students to staff who work during lunch and the student who has to babysit or work after school?

• Can there be more than one open house? Maybe explore and provide coffee hour?

• Once students have a connection with a teacher they communicate with their parent all the time. Some students do not want to promote this.
• Why is attendance at this event low? It was well promoted and after a huge board meeting.

• Transportation is not an issue. I am a parent of color and I am here.

• Some of the conflict comes down to misperceptions.
School safety thoughts

School Safety


The following thoughts from the Community Workshop will be forwarded to the District Safety Committee for their consideration:

More focus is needed on safety and the environment in the community surround the schools.

Potential Solutions: Create the opportunity for “Walking School Buses,” increase crossing guards, provide busing for all students. Survey students to identify surrounding areas of interest and create an engaging environment; Review and update curriculum on Cybersafety, crossing and walking on the streets, interacting with adults/strangers, and handling mental health challenges.


Students need safe places to be after school.


Potential Solutions:
Afterschool programs need to be expanded and more information about existing programs shared. Review the protocol for safety during events, sports, and afterschool programs.


How can we prevent fights and more significant events from happening?

Potential Solutions: Be proactive to address situations regarding mediation and mental health to address school safety. Explore the difference between fear based and practical policy. Train youth to be mediators and take an active role.


We need more mental health support for students.

Potential Solutions:
Increase community partnerships to support these needs. Turn the focus on building the relationships with the students.

Are all community partners educated on how to interact and support our students?

Potential Solutions: Clarify the roles of the SRO. Youth development staff should interact with students more professionally, setting high expectations and holding students accountable. Educate all staff on safety protocol.

How can we balance the visitor’s policy to be safe and welcoming to all?


Potential Solutions:
Provide structural upgrades that are welcoming and safe. Provide training for all greeters. Clarify visitor protocol making it equitable throughout the district. Provide opportunities for parents to visit the class so that they feel welcomed at any time they are entering the building.
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