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SERC in October: Fostering Student and Family Engagement, Promoting SCTG


Building a positive school climate requires leadership from school administration and buy-in from staff. At Preston Plains Middle School in Preston, that leadership also comes from students.

The school’s implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports operates in part through a PBIS Youth Leadership Team. In October, SERC’s Amanda Pickett held her first consultation session with this group of students to help build their leadership capacity. The ultimate goal is allowing the school to sustain PBIS from year to year with different students.

“I thought [Amanda’s] session was very well done — engaging and meaningful for all involved,” said Principal Dr. Ivy K. Davis-Tomczuk.

Pickett will spend another two days with the students during the school year. “I look forward to January’s session,” Dr. Davis-Tomczuk said.

The leadership team is composed of 10 students, mostly eighth graders. The principal and school counselor are in the room, but the students are expected to lead the process.

Under Pickett’s guidance, the students began learning the structure of a meeting and building on a number of skills, including understanding values, self-awareness, goal-setting, communication, conflict resolution, teamwork and leadership, and civic engagement. Her sessions with the students are focused on activities rather than content delivery and include small-group reflection.

The students are very engaged, Pickett said. They have opted to create a video on PBIS for their fellow students and also must complete a community service project.

“By teaching students about leadership while engaging them in activities that benefit our student body and our school community, we are preparing student leaders for future civic leadership roles,” Dr. David-Tomczuk said.

Students apply to be on the Youth Leadership Team, and representation on the team is intentionally more diverse than just high-achieving students. Team members share the perspectives of other peers and help lend student voice to PBIS implementation school-wide.

Pickett’s work with the school’s Youth Leadership Team contributes to SERC’s growing efforts related to student voice.  PBIS, like any structure within a school, is most effective when students feel a sense of ownership in the process.

“We recognize the importance of involving students in PBIS-related decision-making,” Dr. Davis-Tomczuk said. The students provide feedback and input on the rewards and acknowledgments students receive under PBIS, and more. “Our goal is to ensure that student voices are factored into decisions related to advisory topics as well as earned incentives.”

SERC had named Preston Plains a PBIS banner school for the 2015-2016 school year.


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How can educators ensure Planning and Placement Teams (PPTs) truly meet the needs of students with disabilities and reflect the voice of their families? This was the goal of a two-day professional learning opportunity from SERC and the CT Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC).

SERC redesigned its existing training for PPT chairs to focus more on the development of individualized education programs (IEPs) and PPT facilitation strategies. On October 25 and 26, SERC’s Stephen Proffitt and CPAC’s John Flanders led educators through this process of well-designed and well-run PPTs.

Participants included special education teachers and assistant principals, as well as CPAC’s Jane Hampton Smith, who provided a parent perspective. The partnership with CPAC aligns with SERC’s and the CT State Department of Education’s focus on family engagement.


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SERC Executive Director Ingrid M. Canady was the guest speaker at the school year’s first Friday CAFÉ, a family and community engagement network that meets monthly under the leadership of CSDE’s Judy Carson. The October 14 Friday CAFÉ was held at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center in Meriden.

Canady discussed family engagement through the lens of equity, which is central to SERC’s vision. While we did not create inequity, Canady told the gathering of educators and community representatives, all of us have the power to be an agent of change.

SERC’s blueprint for educational equity is built around five elements outlined in SERC’s document “Equity in Education: A Transformational Approach.” For more information, go to http://www.ctserc.org/equity.

Friday CAFÉ is a collaboration of CSDE, the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), SERC and the CT Parent Information and Resource Center, and the Friday CAFÉ Advisory Group. For more information, go to http://fridaycafe.org.


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SERC assisted the CT State Department of Education on “Building Relationships with Families for Student Success,” a full-day session at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell October 25. Participants learned about building school-family connections from the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project, based in Sacramento, Calif., and strategies for partnering with fathers from Doug Edwards of Real Dads Forever, based in New Haven.

Some of the participants included schools under the School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG) and the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant program.


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Sarah L. Jones, SERC’s project officer for the School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG), participated in the SCTG project directors’ meeting and National PBIS Leadership Forum in Rosemont, Ill., October 26-28. The forum featured a poster from CSDE and SERC on Connecticut’s School-wide PBIS Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) data.

The TFI is a self-assessment intended to provide reliable data on a school’s implementation of school-wide PBIS. SERC staff facilitate the TFIs with the schools.

The goal under the grant is for 100 TFIs completed in Connecticut schools every school year. Five TFIs were completed in October, for a total of 11 completed so far this year with an additional 23 already scheduled.

Connecticut is one of 12 states under the SCTG.

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