West Irondequoit CSD update from Aaron Johnson
OCTOBER 27, 2023
I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to take a moment to update you on the progress we've made in our school district when it comes to some of our major initiatives like safety and security, social-emotional wellness, and inclusion.
First and foremost, the safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. We have implemented numerous measures to ensure that our schools are safe environments where your children can thrive. This includes enhanced security protocols, regular safety drills, and improved communication channels to keep you informed in case of any emergencies. I am proud of the progress our buildings are making to increase the safety at arrival and dismissal. We have improved drop-off and pick-up zones with added layers of staff to welcome students to campus. Our goal is for every student to have four points of contact on their way to class to ensure every child feels connected. Our safety and building teams have completed numerous drills including fire, lockdown, and reunification (read more below). We’re including emergency responders like the Irondequoit Police and St. Paul Fire departments as we can. Having them involved adds extra credibility to the experience, perspective and feedback.
In terms of security, we've invested in updated technology and increased the presence of trained personnel on our campuses like our Youth Assistants across grades 4-12 buildings and roving security for grades K-3. This, along with more secured entrances at all buildings, ensures that our students and staff feel safe in their learning environments.
All schools are taking steps to support student social-emotional wellness. We ground ourselves to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework. We must support our students’ ability to develop a healthy sense of self by developing emotional awareness and the ability to manage, relate and feel in a way that promotes healthy relationships and a confident self. For more information on CASEL, visit their website at casel.org. Our schools and many classrooms are adding rooms or spaces for students to access when they just need a moment or special “sensory walks” on hallway floors for students. These, along with the classroom lessons being piloted across the district, are some examples of how we are not only teaching the a-b-c’s and 1-2-3’s but all the skills for students to develop into smart, healthy and socially sound adults.
Our commitment to inclusion is unwavering. We continue to work on creating an inclusive and diverse school community where all students are respected, valued, and supported. We have introduced educational programs, training for our staff, and resources to promote a culture of acceptance and understanding. One example is the continued refinement of our Heritage and Identity Months (read more below). This curricular initiative touches all grades to ensure all students are learning about the richness of our diverse culture locally and beyond. These experiences promote discussion aimed at meeting students where they are at to reflect and discuss the essence of what makes them and others who they are.
We understand that these are ongoing efforts, and we are dedicated to continually improving in these areas and many others. Your feedback and input are invaluable in our pursuit of making our schools the best they can be in service of all students finding their personal peak performance. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with your thoughts and suggestions.
Thank you for entrusting us with the education and well-being of your children and for working with us through times of joy and stress to ensure every student is safe and loved. Please read more below for district-wide updates.
Aaron R. Johnson, Ed.D
Superintendent of Schools
In this newsletter ...
- Safety & Security update: Reunification training for staff
- Community Engagement Forum on Restorative Practices is Nov. 7
- DEI Coalition seeks members
- Updates on new Pinegrove tutoring center & Strong Voices Project
- Community Connections "Town Hall" webinar is Nov. 14
TRAINING TO BE PREPARED
We actively look for proven ways to ensure a safe and secure environment for our students, staff and community members. A key component of our recent Superintendent Conference Day on Oct. 6 was conducting “reunification” training for school faculty and staff district-wide.
What is reunification? It's one critical aspect of crisis response. It allows for accountable reunification of students with their parents/guardians in case a controlled release from school is necessary. Initiating a reunification can be a result of anything abnormal at the school or in the area that renders it unsafe to stay, such as a power or phone outage, weather event, hazmat incident, bomb threat, criminal activity in the area, or active violence at the school. Having a plan in place before a crisis is paramount to safety. A predetermined, practiced reunification plan ensures the process will not further complicate what may already be a chaotic, anxiety-filled situation.
The training team included WICSD Security Staff, BlackHawk Emergency Management Group, and the Irondequoit Police Dept. WICSD faculty/staff were not only instructed on their roles and responsibilities in the reunification process, but also worked its way through an actual mock reunification site.
A reunification site is a predetermined location that provides a safe and secure area for students to relocate to in the event of an emergency. These have been visited by staff to determine how they will be set up, where students will be relocated to, and where parents/guardians would arrive and then exit with their child/children. In the event of a relocation of students, parents/guardians will be notified of the Reunification site and how to proceed once they arrive at the location. We are not disclosing those sites in advance.
WICSD will continue with more reunification training, including visiting sites to walk through the process. For further information on the Standard Reunification Method, please visit https://iloveuguys.org/The-Standard-Reunification-Method.html.
Our district is collaborating with the Children's Institute for a Community Engagement Forum on Restorative Practices Mindset. The event will be from 6-7:30 PM Tuesday, Nov. 7th in the All-Purpose Room at Dake Jr. HS, 350 Cooper Road. This is intended for district families, caregivers and community members to learn more about the whole-child approach and the use of restorative practices in West Irondequoit. Attendees will gain a deepened understanding of community building, social-emotional learning and relational and culturally responsive practices. Restorative Practices help us handle conflicts and build a better, more respectful school community. They don't eliminate consequences for actions; they repair harm, promote growth and build a more positive school environment.
If any individual needs a translator or sign-language interpreter for this event, please email Assistant Director of Counseling, Student Equity & Wellness, Mrs. Leah Daniels-Farren at email@example.com.
INVITATION TO JOIN DISTRICT DEI COALITION
We are looking for membership for our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coalition. Below are meeting dates and focus areas for the 2023-24 school year.
Meeting Dates (location TBD based on group size):
- November 7th from 3:30-4:30
- January 11th from 3:30-4:30
- March 12th from 3:30-4:30
- May 16th from 3:30-4:30
The focus areas of the Coalition for this year will be:
Curriculum: How can we increase equitable opportunities for students to gain access to a variety of educational experiences? Topics to explore include:
- Access for all students to higher level coursework
- Partnerships with local institutions and affinity groups
- Course Access and Acceleration
Human Resources: Continue to refine hiring rubric & recruitment opportunities and strategies
Family Engagement: Coordination of family events to demonstrate ongoing work within the district (Restorative Practices, Student Voice, CRE, etc)
This is open to all K-12 parents/guardians. If you can commit to these meeting times, please complete this form: https://forms.office.com/r/Ypp5ZBx8Xw. We will communicate to all interested people whether or not they are selected for the Coalition. If you have questions, please email Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Mrs. Chrissy Miga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Tutoring Center Update!
We are excited to expand our Tutoring Center, which currently resides at the Evans-McGraw Learning Center on Cooper Road, as a place to support students who are out of their regular instructional program for a variety of reasons. The building in front of Helmer Nature Center at 154 Pinegrove Ave. is being updated to accommodate an expansion of our tutoring center. Since last summer, our West Irondequoit team has been diligently renovating two rooms and surrounding space for the center expansion. We have partnered with Vaysen Studios to design a flexible learning environment to accommodate a variety of grade levels, learning styles and needs.
We are estimating completion of the Pinegrove Tutoring Center to be late November. Once both tutoring locations are up and running, students will typically be supported at each location in the following ways:
Sneak Peek of Pinegrove Tutoring Center below
We are excited to share the completed spaces with you and look forward to utilizing the Tutoring Centers to best support our students!
UPDATE ON STRONG VOICES PROJECT
The Strong Voices Project is a district-wide undertaking with the goal of bringing to life Culturally Responsive Educational practices through three elements: the creation and implementation of a Land Acknowledgement, the diversification of district curriculum, and the explicit recognition of Heritage and Identity Celebration Months. Today’s update focuses on our work over the past couple of years regarding our recognition of Heritage and Identity Celebration months.
After considering feedback from students, staff and families, as well as research, West Irondequoit has determined that the term “Heritage Months” is not truly representative of the goal of these months. Instead, we have elected to expand the term to “Heritage and Identity Celebration Months” to recognize that many of these months are referring to specific identity components that may be separate from one’s heritage, such as Women’s History Month or Disability Awareness Month.
To support these celebrations, we have partnered with teachers, librarians, the community, and the DEI Coalition to ensure diverse representation occurs in the classroom through rich learning experiences. At the K-4 level, we have worked on curating a list of texts for each celebration month that will become part of our grade-level curricular expectations. We are excited to share that these carefully curated texts will be presented to the Board of Education at its first November meeting, with pending approval at the second November meeting. This ensures that we can guarantee every K-4 student has access to learning experiences that expand their understanding of identity, diversity, and the power of each to enrich our community. At the same time, at grades 5-12, we have worked extensively in Humanities to incorporate diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities into our curriculum through history and literature. We recognize that not all heritages or identities are addressed through the list of the celebration months. This was part of our reason to expand our final month to “Identity Month” so all students could have the opportunity to celebrate their culture, heritage, and who they are.
Parallel to the curricular work, we formed the “Heritage Celebrations" committee. An important part of the mission of this group was to “build a strong sense of connection and belonging between students, staff and community members by providing district-wide learning experiences and celebrations that give people of all backgrounds and identities the opportunity to shine and cultivate a curiosity about a larger global community.” This committee, which included community members, teachers, administrators and the Director of Diversity and Equity Planning at Monroe 1 BOCES, focused on identifying resources that could be recommended to building administrators and teachers for use in building-wide celebrations. The directors of instruction vetted those resources (activities, guest speakers, local organizations) and compiled them into an easy-to-use document that allowed buildings to plan for their celebrations. This year, we are working to empower our Library Department to continue this curation and to partner with principals to support the planning of celebration experiences.
Look for November newsletters from your child's school next week!
Special Election to be held to fill Board of Education seat
Our district will hold a Special Election to fill the vacant seat on its Board of Education. The election will be Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at District Office, 321 List Ave. Voter qualifications are the same as the annual Board of Education election each May.
The newly elected candidate will start immediately following the election and serve through June 30, 2025, fulfilling the original term of the vacated seat. Candidates can pick up a Candidate Packet at District Office. Nominating petitions must be turned in to District Office by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13. Candidate qualifications are the same as the annual BOE election, such as securing 40 signatures on a petition, proof of residency, etc. More details are in the packet. You can also read more on our website. Questions? Contact District Clerk, Mrs. Jenna Lustig at email@example.com or call (585) 336-2983.
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Join us for a "Town Hall" style meeting (via Zoom video) at 7 PM on Tuesday, Nov. 14th. Superintendent Aaron Johnson is your host. Panelists will cover topics that include:
- How changes to arrival/dismissal are working
- A look at the relationship-building role of our Youth Assistants
- What trends/issues is our new Substance Abuse & Prevention Counselor seeing among teens?
- Keeping cell phones out of sight in classrooms - the how and the why