Staff Stability and Supports Essential to School Culture and Climate
At the last SRC meeting I testified on the in-school staff support needs for kindergarten children in behavioral distress. This is also essential in upper grades and, when provided for adequately, has immense positive affect on the climate and culture of the entire school, which is a key to learning.
I retired after 38 years as a school counselor in one K-8 school and 3 years in another as a 2nd grade teacher before that. School staffs have historically been made up of teachers, principals and support staff who commit years of service to one or two schools and that school’s community. It’s an important part of the growing up experience for children.
In 2000, I served on Mayor Street’s Educational Transition Team for Safety and Security where we interviewed experts in education and law, from Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson on down and prepared a detailed report. I later served on the School District’s Safety Committee when Phil Goldsmith was in charge. I’ve also worked with Barry McCurdy and Devereux about school-wide behavior.
An essential component is a staff that is cohesive and has been at the school long enough to become a part of the culture, who have earned the trust of the students, their families, and each other. Children are often mentored by previous teachers and other support staff with whom they’ve bonded to get them through tough times at their moment of need and then back into the classroom. Education curricula are often changed, but having a core consistency of people who’ve practiced working together and with their school community is, well, priceless.
Security and consistency is critical to children. When that is missing, they tend to act out. The District’s plans to constantly remove and replace staff, to close schools and send children to different buildings and merged with different school populations places students into unfamiliarity which breeds stress and lack of trust that they are safe. Today’s children are already experiencing high stress levels that affect their school behavior, attendance, and ability to concentrate. Children learn best when they feel safe and secure in buildings they know and with familiar staff with whom they have history and trust. Please stop taking that away from them.
Public schools are not just about teaching academic subjects and test-taking. Children have to be more than just data points. There’s so much emotional and maturational skills that we work on that empower children to move forward, including academically. And we’re also there to identify if, perhaps, a family needs help. We adults forget how important consistency is to children’s feeling able to risk expanding their world. Because we do this well when we’re given the human resources to do so, is why children come back to visit their “old” teachers — to show off who they’ve become.