Jessica Bonduris on decision-making suggestions for school leaders and teachers to use – POP 5

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

We welcomed Dr. Jessica Bonduris back to the podcast this week for another kernel of wisdom. We first heard from her in episode 2 where she spoke about how to build positive relationships.

What are Jessica’s top tips around decision making when leading staff and students through positive climate change?

Transparency in decision making – Jessica believes this is particularly important for new administrators where there can be a large element of mistrust from staff members, parents or students. Being transparent allows you to alleviate a lot of the potential tension around decision making.

Jessica Bonduris
Jessica Bonduris

If it’s a shared decision on a school-wide issue you are able to make with an instructional leadership or other decision-making team, be prepared to speak about why it’s important for the school, present the data behind it and discuss it thoroughly.

As a leader you also need to be very transparent in what you expect everyone to be doing. This will help you to avoid having to catch people not doing what you expect or being disappointed when this happens.

Relationships – any programme which covers social or emotional issues is going to be used not only in the classroom but also in the cafeteria, at recess and at other times so it’s really important to teach students and staff how to use the new initiative in all areas of the school. This also needs to be communicated to parents as well so they can help at home.

Principals need to be out of their offices to see the programme being implemented in all the different settings.

Especially for new principals, any decision which is implemented in a ‘top-down’ manner has the potential to be disastrous. So it’s much better to work with the leadership group and for them to tell the rest of the school about what is going to happen and why. This way, you are building the leadership of the whole team.

Brandon adds that where the leader has already made up their mind about a decision and the group decision making ends up not being genuine, this can lead to serious problems as well.

It’s much better to be transparent and make it clear which decisions are shared and which have to be made by the principal alone rather than pretending that all decisions are shared. If you have established good relationships, then everyone will be happy to trust the principal’s judgement.

Mark Cerutti on Improving the Culture of Behavior – POP4

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Mark is Associate Superintendent of Education Services for the Elk Grove Unified Schools District, the 5th largest School District in the State of California.

Mark was originally involved in natural resource and wildlife management. This led him to education as a great way to continue to support these areas through teaching children.

Mark Cerutti
Mark Cerutti

He taught at elementary and secondary schools and took courses in various topics including administration before taking up Principal positions at different levels for approximately 18 years as well as working in corporate educations as well.

However, K-12 has always been Mark’s passion and when a position in Elk Grove was suggested to him, he was delighted to take it up.

What are the top 3 aspects for a school administrator or team to consider when improving the culture of behaviour at a school site?

1. Start with adult behavior

What are the types of adult behavior we need to exhibit ourselves in order to be successful with kids?

It’s easy to head towards the types of behaviors we want our kids to exhibit in order to be successful but in fact it’s much more important to get the adult behaviour right first.

2. It’s essential to understand your ‘why?

Mark loves the following video from Simon Sinek which helps to explain what he means by starting with ‘why?’

Whatever initiative you are engaged in it’s essential to help everyone involved to understand why you are doing it. This leads on to how you are going to do it and finally what the programs are going to be.

3. Resources

Mark says there are a lot of resources which can be used like PBIS or, of course, the Pivotal Curriculum:

http://us.pivotalglobal.com/instructor-training/

https://www.pbis.org/

Recently, many tools have been developed which can help behavior initiatives so nowadays a school does not have to start from scratch to develop a program itself.

Harriet MacLean on successful restorative justice practices at a model middle school – POP3

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Harriet MacLean is Assistant Superintendent of Education Services for the San Rafael City Schools in Northern California. Harriet moved through a variety of different teaching roles including learning Spanish so she could teach in bilingual classrooms before gaining her administrative services credential and being appointed Principal in the school she had been teaching in for some time.

Harriet MacLean
Harriet MacLean

After more Principal roles and coaching and overseeing a group of Principals, Harriet returned to what she describes as ‘the job of her life’ – at Davidson Middle School San Rafael where Harriet was Principal for 6 years.

At Davidson, Harriet led significant success in improving the attainment of all students and also put in place a system of Restorative Practice.

Harriet’s Top 3 in Restorative Practice:

1. A very strong, challenging and supportive academic program

This has everything to do with culture and climate and it’s essential before you begin to add restorative practice. Harriet removed the tracking of students and developed the community by getting people to know each other better by talking to each other. This is only possible if different kinds of people are together in classrooms. There was a culture of separation when Harriet arrived.

So a new academic program was implemented with a full ELD program and none of the original tracking of students. In her second year, Harriet introduced community building circles.

Suspensions were cut in half which has to be attributed to the new academic program.

You have to have a system in which every student feels cared for, valued, supported and challenged academically.

2. Build community 

You build community first and then when there is a break down in community, that’s where the restorative practices come in.

Harriet brought in a lot of traditionally silenced voices – students, parents  – and found out what it was they wanted from the school. She held meetings in the library but eventually also went into living rooms to carry out the research.

This enabled the school to bring on board people who were afraid of the changes.

3. Start bringing in the restorative practice

Harriet started with Restorative circles. Students fill in a form when there is a conflict and then a meeting is held at which the four restorative questions are asked.

After this was in place, Harriet implemented the Peer Court. This is ‘suspension diversion’ with the student, a parent, an assistant principal who acts as an advocate for the student and a panel of the student’s peers who have been trained. The panel produce a contract of restitution and the ‘victim’ gets to explain what the effect was.

Thirdly, Harriet used http://www.nobully.org When an incident of bullying occurs, a circle is convened without the target and run by a teacher or adult. A group of students is brought together which includes the perpetrator of the incident, some leaders and some who watch and do nothing about the situation. The target’s own words are used to describe what happened and each member of the circle adds one thing they will do to make the target’s experience better. This approach often results in the perpetrator suggesting ways to avoid the behavior in future.

Harriet says that in 99% of cases the bullying stops.

Using these three practices, the school managed to reduce the suspension rate to 40-50 in four years while student numbers increased to 1,100.

Finally, Davidson was the first to implement Beyond Differences which is designed to end social isolation. There is a Beyond Differences club and the first event was ‘No one Eats Alone’. The approach is spreading nationwide.

Harriet’s email address – hmaclean@srcs.org

Jessica Bonduris on simple steps for teachers and leaders to build/maintain positive relationships (with students, parents and staff) – POP2

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Dr Jessica Bonduris is one of the Directors of Elementary Principal Support for the San Francisco Unified School District. Originally an English and History teacher, Jessica then took up various assistant principal positions before becoming an elementary school principal and eventually moved into the supportive position she now has.

Jessica Bonduris
Jessica Bonduris

What are the most important strategies you used as a teacher and as a principal to make connections with and build the most student to adult relationships?

Student – teacher relationships:

  • Stand outside your door and greet every student with a smile when they enter the room – make sure there is no tension in your body – every day is a new day.

Parent – teacher relationships:

  • Make phone calls to parents before any negativity happens – parents should know your voice so that when you call they wonder what the call is about rather than immediately assuming something is wrong. You have built the relationship in advance and are much more well-received as a result.
  • Ask each parent to send in a letter about their child – what kind of learner they are and what they need. Ask each student to do the same. This helps to create a mental image of the student and how to relate to them.

Principal – teacher relationships:

Communicate effectively –

  • Formally with staff – send a regular ‘Monday Memo’ – short bullets around events and pieces of the school vision. Make it clear you expect all teachers to read it every week.
  • Informally with staff – make sure you are out and about – in the recess yard, through the hallways in every classroom. This is essential to help you know what may be coming up and be ready.

Principal – parent relationships:

  • Create a newsletter – inform parents about new initiatives several months before it happens
  • Concentrate on ‘curb appeal’ – this is not just having the grounds of the school well-kept but also being there waving and smiling at parents as they drop off their children, greeting buses and making it clear you are approachable and friendly enough to encourage parents to come in and see you.