Transcript: California Center for School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive School Climates in 2022-23
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the CCSC, California Center for School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive School Climates webinar today. My name is Hilva Chan, I’m an Education Program Consultant with the CDE (California Department of Education). We are glad that you can join us today. In the next 45 minutes, you’re going to hear from us regarding an overview of the CCSC, and all the exciting upcoming TA (technical assistance) and training opportunities that we offer through the Center and how to really stay informed and reach out to us with additional questions or coaching questions, or to sign up for the events.
At this time, I’m going to introduce Dr. Tom Herman, who is the Education Administrator for the School Health and Safety Office from the CDE, for a warm welcome. Tom?
Thank you, Hilva, for that, and thank you to all who are attending. It’s my pleasure to welcome anyone who’s interested in learning more about school climate and adopting some of the strategies that we know improve academic achievement and strategies that we know improve the wellbeing of our students. Now, more than ever, coming out of this pandemic, we know that our students are facing trauma, they’re facing mental health issues based on what they’ve been through. To work on school climate, especially to really work in that tier one area, to cast a wide net, and to look at the needs of all our students, is so essential. These efforts also are consistent with the Superintendent of Public Instruction initiatives regarding equity and regarding the whole child. This fits very neatly and nicely within those efforts.
So again, I welcome you and am so glad for our partnership with WestEd to assist us in doing this work. Have a great webinar today, and we look forward in the future to providing further technical assistance as you improve your school climates. Thank you.
Thanks, Tom. As part of the CCSC, we do have a team of young people and youth advisors to really help us with our work. We currently have five high school students and two young adults to help us design and provide feedback on all the various resources and briefs and activities that we are offering through the CCSC. They participate in group discussions, and they collaborate to really share the students’ perspective on creating a safe and supportive school climate. Now, we’d love to have them here, but they’re at school right now; so three of them put together a video to really welcome you and share their experience with the CCSC.
Amiya Farias (via video):
Hello and welcome to today’s webinar. The California Center for School Climate: Building Safe, Supportive, and Inclusive School Climates in 2022-2023. My name is Amiya Farias, 11th grader at Casa Roble Fundamental High School in San Juan Unified School District.
Julian Berkowitz-Sklar (via video):
And my name is Julian Berkowitz-Sklar, 12th grader at Saratoga High School in the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District.
Alexa Southall (via video):
My name is Alexa Southall, 10th grader at Eastlake High School in Sweetwater Union High School District. We are all members of the California Center for School Climate’s Youth Advisory Team, a team of six members representing several regions across California. In our work with CCSC, we provide input as well as help to create resources for schools and districts. This past spring, we contributed activities to a resource that will be released this month, called “Cultivating Caring Relationships Toolkit,” which contains activities that help to strengthen staff-student relationships.
We’re here today to share our perspective about the importance of school climate. A positive school climate is important to me because in order for youth to feel welcome and comfortable, students need to feel accepted for their different cultures, backgrounds, identities, or ideas. An environment that allows for people to be themselves without the worry of bullying, harassment or judgment really creates a more secure and independent person, ready for life after school. These strong relationships and strong support groups that come with this positive climate can be really helpful for a young person’s mental health and overall experience when it comes to social, academic, or personal lives.
A positive school climate to me is an environment that works to comfortably increase genuine relationships between peers on campus so that teachers and students are structured and supported when learning, succeeding, and struggling.
To add onto what Amiya said, a positive school climate to me is a place where students are encouraged to embrace their individuality. It allows students to have peers and staff to go to if they ever need help. By supporting students both academically and non-academically, it sets students up for long term success.
Thank you all for being here today and working toward making schools a positive place for all to be. As members of the Youth Advisory Team, we look forward to continuing to contribute to the work of the California Center for School Climate.
Thank you. After hearing the wonderful Youth Advisory Team, I’ll pass it back to Rebeca Cerna, Director of the CCSC. Rebeca?
Thank you, Hilva. I’m glad that we were able to share a little bit about our Youth Advisory Team, who we have been working with this past spring. Like Hilva said, my name is Rebeca Cerna, I am the Director of the California Center for School Climate, and I work for WestEd. The Center provides school climate coaching and supports to schools and districts across the state. It’s part of a three-year project that will be ending in June of 2024.
We have four main goals as part of the Center: to provide relevant and responsive technical assistance supports to districts and schools with best practices; and also to provide best practices support around using data and measuring school climate improvement; and to serve as a connector across the state and to disseminate best practices; and lastly, to support districts and schools in building their connections with their educational partners — students, families, and communities.
The website for the Center can be found using the QR code. You can use the QR code by using your camera app. We will also have a link that will be posted, or has been posted on the chat. It’s a Linktree link (https://linktr.ee/cacenterforschoolclimate), and it has all the links that we will be referring to today.
And now I’m going to pass it to Ana Arias. She’s the principal of Fallbrook STEM Academy in Fallbrook Union Elementary School District in San Diego County. Ana will be sharing about the importance of school climate. She was also a participant in our professional learning series offered by the Center this past spring. She was part of our first cohort of the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments Essentials, and she’ll also share a little bit about that experience. Ana?
Thank you, Rebeca. So as Rebeca mentioned, I was a participant in Cohort One, and I walked away with a plethora of knowledge and resources after completing the course. The time I spent with this team was definitely valuable and worth every minute.
So many of us here in this meeting today find ourselves struggling to address the needs impacting our school communities, starting with school culture and climate, and we know that school culture and climate is pivotal to transformation. Focusing on school climate helps people relate to each other in their environment as we acknowledge the stress of the trauma that many of our students carry with them.
This is probably not new to us, we are aware of this, but the action and the implementation plan is what some of us, or at least myself as a school principal, struggle with. We know the why, we look around, we see our students and we know the why, but we don’t always know the how. Through the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments Essentials, I was able to attain knowledge and have access to resources, which I could use immediately at my school site with my staff and with my students. Throughout the course, we navigated an array of topics that are highly relevant to the current experiences and the realities that our students and staff are facing.
After COVID, many of us return to schools knowing that our low-income culturally and linguistically diverse students endured disproportionate suffering and trauma. In the face of their staggering challenges, we have an ethical imperative to create school climates that heal and support students navigating their educational journeys.
What is school climate? School climate includes the conditions and the quality of the school environment that affects the attitudes, the behaviors, and the performance of students and staff. It also includes relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures. School climate can also be described as the quality and character of a school, based on the experiences of students, staff, and other school partners, reflecting norms, goals and values, reflecting relationships, reflecting teaching and learning, and reflecting the structures in the school.
Importantly, as we engage in the work of creating positive school climate, our local and context-specific data can help us decide what to prioritize and what kinds of supports will work best in our communities. Effective data use includes not only having access to the data, but also engaging staff, students, families, and other educational partners in order to guide and inform our efforts. Later on, you will hear more about how the Center is supporting LEAs in data use practices.
Why school climate? Why is it important? Well, all of these efforts ultimately come together to support meaningful learning, which happens when all members of a school community feel safe, valued, cared for, and respected and engaged. There are many different frameworks that school leaders can draw on as they do this work. This is why, personally, I appreciated my experience in the first cohort of the Safe and Supportive Learning Environment Essentials virtual professional learning course, which you all will hear about later.
What I most appreciated about the course was that each session covered a range of information through varied and highly engaging formats. We were provided with articles and videos, websites, resource links that we could easily access as we began our work in creating a culture of engaged learning. We had authentic conversations around topics such as empathy, equity, trauma, self-care, brain research, how it informs teaching and learning.
Not only did we learn about these topics, but we were afforded the opportunity to immerse ourselves in it whenever possible. For example, not only did we learn about the importance of getting regulated, our students getting regulated, but we spent time grounding ourselves and learning what it means and feels to be regulated. When we discussed self-care, we had the opportunity to partake in self-care activities. We had highly engaging breakout sessions. We made connections with other people in our cohort. We connected organically and we made our learning very relevant.
I also appreciated having access to all of the information at my fingertips. The videos, websites, and articles are easily accessible. I, personally, have relied on them many times since the spring when I was taking the course. Quite often, even since then and now, I find myself looking at my notes, going back, retrieving data, retrieving videos when I plan my staff meetings or when I meet with a teacher who honestly feels defeated.
Learning and understanding some of the nuances of brain research and how physical environments affect the brain and the body has given me the tools necessary to inform my teachers and help pass on these tools as we move towards building a more caring, supportive, and safe learning environment. This beautiful struggle is real, and the more equipped we are, the easier it will be to cultivate hope within our educational environments. This series supports us in this goal.
I will now pass it back to Rebeca.
Ana, thank you so much for sharing your perspective and also your experience that you had with the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments cohort sessions that you attended. Thank you for being here and taking time out of your busy schedule.
Our goal is to design and provide supports that are needed by schools and districts. During the session, we would really like to gather some quick feedback from you to help us shape some upcoming supports and resources that we are creating for the field. During events that we hosted last spring, we gathered feedback on school climate topics of interest. These were the school climate topics that rose to the top in terms of interest: equity and culturally responsive practices, resilience and trauma-informed practices, restorative practices, meaningful engagement of families and other partners, SEL, staff and student relationship building, and staff wellness.
We have some exciting new supports, as Hilva mentioned, this year. Before sharing these, I would just like to share a little bit about our CCSC technical assistance team. Our team has expertise in many school climate and data use areas, ranging from mental health data use practices, data visualization, resilience, youth development, school safety, school wellness, to name a few. Our team is also supported by the youth and young adult school climate advisors already introduced by Hilva. We also have a core of senior advisors who can also provide supports.
As part of the Center, we want to support you in strengthening your school climate efforts. Some of our opportunities offered by the Center will be open to all districts and schools, and some opportunities are only limited to some schools and districts. Announcements of any of our future events and resources are also being made via our school climate newsletter. You can find the link to that newsletter on the Linktree link that has been shared in the chat.
First, what I’m going to go over, I’m going to start with sharing some of the offerings that are available to all districts and schools. Monthly, during the school year, we will be hosting a virtual Peer Learning Exchange. These are opportunities to connect with other districts and schools to share school climate practices. We allow for small breakout group conversations to build connections across the state. They’re centered typically around a topic that has been identified. Our topics coming up this fall include student voice and engagement, chronic absenteeism, and educator wellness.
Our first session is scheduled for September 21st, so we invite you to join us at that first one. It’s at noon, and it’s focused on Back to School: Building a Positive School Climate from the Start. The link in the chat also has the Peer Learning Exchange, where you can find the registration to join us on that day.
In the spring, we will be hosting a one-day virtual event that’s open to all California districts. Participants will be able to choose from sessions from a range of topics. That’s why we’re collecting input from the field — to identify what are the topics for the sessions. Some of these examples that maybe we haven’t shared yet might be participatory planning, community schools, and equity, for example. We will be using the feedback that you provide today to help us identify. If you want to send us a chat as well, if there is a day of the week that works best, we haven’t selected a date yet, so if we see a convergence of a certain day of the week, we can also lean towards that as well.
We will also have a Data Use Webinar Series. Part of our offerings is to really provide those supports around data use practices. We’ll be hosting a series of these webinars over the course of the school year. Some topics that have already been identified by the field include making meaning of local school climate survey data, continuous improvement, alignment of data to LCAP goals, and engaging partners in data discussions. These are some of the webinars that we’re currently planning to start off the school year. Again, registration links are coming soon for these webinars.
We also have resources. One form of resource that we have is our audio gallery. The CCSC has been developing an audio gallery, which includes a series of audiocasts that highlight exemplars in school climate from across our state. Each audiocast shares a story from a California school or district, and each is roughly 20 minutes in length. There is also a companion brief for each audiocast that you can use for guidance to engage in conversations with teams, and transcripts are available for each audiocast.
Our first five audiocasts, that are already posted on our website, highlight stories from an elementary school, EnCompass in Oakland Unified, to a district in the Central Valley, Pajaro Valley, to Horace Mann Middle School in San Diego Unified. Topics range from post-disaster mobilization in Paradise in Butte, to co-designing culturally responsive pedagogy with tribal partners in Shasta County.
One of our audiocasts so far is also narrated by one of our young adult advisors, so look out for that. We’re also accepting nominations for sites that we should highlight in our audio gallery on a rolling basis, because we will be creating additional audiocasts over the next two years. We invite you to come listen to those audiocasts. The link for those is also found on the Linktree link that we have been sharing.
We are also building a series of resources (briefs and guides). Our first resource has been posted to the website, it’s a brief on restorative practices that can be used beyond the classroom. Our upcoming resources that will be released this fall include what Alexa mentioned, Alexa from our Youth Advisory Team, the toolkit that was co-written by some of our Youth Advisory Team members. It’s on cultivating caring relationships, that includes a series of activities on developing relationships. We have two briefs that will also be released this fall, one on calming spaces and one on a school climate overview. We’re also going to be releasing a participatory guide for equity this fall as well.
Now, I’m going to pass it to my colleague, Jenny Betz, one of our core technical assistance providers, who’s going to share CCSC opportunities that are available to select LEAs and schools. Jenny?
Yeah. Thanks, Rebeca, and hi everyone. As Rebeca said, I’m Jenny Betz. I’m really, really grateful to be able to work with the California Center for School Climate and to get to talk to you today about the supports and events that we have available to LEAs and schools that are in addition to the universal things that are available for everyone. In addition to those universal things that Rebeca talked about, we have targeted and intensive opportunities for smaller numbers of LEAs and schools throughout the year. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Ana already talked about this a lot and spoke about it way better than I could, but our Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, or SSLE, Essentials, is a cohort-based offering of professional learning and collaboration. You heard really a lot more details from Ana. The Essentials really are meant to lead educators and education leaders to integrate a broad cluster of research-based content and culturally responsive practices. They really inherently work together to foster safe and supportive learning environments. We’re not picking one thing, this year we’re going to do restorative practices, next year we’re going to do trauma-informed practices. They all actually speak to each other.
For this school year, we’re working with two new cohorts. The first started this week and runs through January. We’ve noticed we had quite a bit of interest specifically from county offices of education. Our next cohort, which will be in the spring, we’re still working on the dates, is going to work specifically with small teams from California COEs. You can add yourself to an interest list if you’re at a COE or not, because we’ll keep doing these, for upcoming cohorts of the SSLE Essentials on our webpage that’s in the Linktree. If you sign up for the interest list, then we’ll let you know when applications for the next groups are live.
New this year are our School Climate Collaboratives, where the California Center, we’re going to work with select LEAs to improve school climate and build really local capacity through year-long intensive and collaborative partnerships. Partner LEAs are going to identify, each of them is going to identify a school climate leadership team to really guide district-wide efforts and support a set of co-led events that the district or LEA or school folks, along with our staff and coaches, will implement throughout the year. We’re really excited to be able to offer this level of targeted coaching and technical assistance. For this one, the applications are currently live, which is exciting. Go ahead and find that School Climate Collaborative link in your Linktree, and there’s where you can find out more information and find the application link.
Another pretty amazing new offering is the School Climate Data Use Community of Practice. It’s also accepting applications right now. Similar to the School Climate Collaboratives that I just talked about, the Data Use Community of Practice involves a core LEA team working closely with CCSC staff throughout the year. The LEAs will get individualized coaching and in-person data use workshops. Then, also, those participating LEAs are going to have opportunities throughout to meet and learn from each other, which really provides that whole community of practice angle to it.
If you’re interested in using local school climate data to support your school improvement goals, building local capacity in data use practices, and addressing inequities in school climate supports and outcomes, some of the things you saw on that poll, use the link again in the Linktree that says School Climate Data Use Community of Practice to see more about it and apply.
Lastly, we have our most intensive offering. The CCSC team, we’re available to provide direct support to LEAs via virtual coaching sessions, which can be one-on-one or in small groups. We can help identify relevant resources or research and provide connections with other districts or partnering agencies that may be working on similar types of projects.
There’s a TA request form that you can fill out: you can find it on our website or in the Linktree, but also you can use the QR code right here if you’d like, with your phone using your camera app. It will take you right to that form. You can always request technical assistance. We’ll do our best to meet your needs or maybe point you in the right direction at least.
A huge thank you to Ana and Hilva and Tom and Rebeca and the whole team. You can reach us any time at schoolclimatewested.org. Then as the year goes on, look for us in social media posts with the hashtag #CCSC and #schoolclimate.
Linktree link for CCSC website, resources, technical assistance offerings and applications, newsletter sign-up, and more: https://linktr.ee/cacenterforschoolclimate