School culture and climate focus of districtwide learning series

Leaders gather to learn about restorative justice, inclusive practices, and supporting all students

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More than 1,500 school and district leaders are gathering this week at Kingdom Builders Center for HISD’s 2017 Professional Learning Series (PLS), which includes two days of development, collaboration, and learning that will set the priorities and vision for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. The theme for this year’s PLS, “Support Every Child: Create a Culture and Climate for all Students,” emphasizes connections between a positive school culture and adult behaviors in schools. At PLS, school leaders will focus on how improving school culture and climate can reduce dropout rates, discipline issues, bullying, and other high-risk behaviors while supporting students to increase academic and behavioral performance.

Superintendent Richard Carranza kicked off PLS with a video highlighting Mading Elementary’ s collaborative efforts with staff and parents to build a positive school culture, which has led to a drastic reduction in discipline issues and school suspensions over the past year.

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In addition to highlighting Mading, Carranza praised the district’s efforts to reduce suspensions districtwide. Over the last year, out-of-school suspensions have dropped six percent, while in-school suspensions have decreased nine percent. The reduction is part of the district’s move to restorative justice practices, which focus on relationship management and meeting the social and emotional needs of students rather than behavior management and discipline. Just last week, the Board of Education approved changes to the 2017-2018 Code of Conduct that support more restorative practices, and in March the board approved a plan to open an in-house disciplinary alternative education program.

“Public schools are the last refuge for our students,” said Carranza. “All of you in this room are the last refuge for ending the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Crystal Laura from Chicago State University also addressed the crowd of school leaders and asked them to consider their work as educators as anti-prison work. “You alone can’t do it all but get up and do something,” said Laura. “Pick a lane and go hard.”

PLS continues all day Tuesday at Kingdom Builders Center. School and district leaders from across the district will attend all-day trainings in special education, restorative justice practices, social and emotional learning, universal design for learning, and equity. For more information on PLS, click here.