Safe & Supportive Schools Initiative

In 2016, a $10,000¬†AEF Development & Expansion grant supported the Arlington Public School’s Safe & Supportive Schools effort to develop a comprehensive behavioral health plan for the district.

Excerpt from the December 2016 Superintendent’s Newsletter

Two Grants Support Assessment and Action Planning of District-Wide Approach

I am delighted to report that Arlington Public Schools has received two generous grants that will enable us to assess six critical areas and create action plans to create a truly inclusive and supportive Pre-K-12 environment. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education has awarded us a competitive Safe and Supportive Schools Grant for $31,000, and the Arlington Education Foundation is supporting our work with a $10,000 Development and Expansion Grant.

These awards enable us to do the following:

  • Create a Safe and Supportive Schools Working Group with representatives from each school. Alison Elmer, Special Education Director, is leading the group with assistance from Consultant Sara M. Burd, Adjunct Professor at Lesley University and District Leader of Social Emotional Learning in Reading.
  • Complete the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Behavioral Health Framework and Assessment Tool. This will enable us to assess leadership, professional development, access to resources and services, academic and non-academic approaches, policies and protocols and collaboration with families at each school and in the district as a whole.
  • Identify the greatest areas of need for change and decide on priority areas for action. This will be led by the Working Group with input from a broad range of stakeholders.
  • Develop district and individual school improvement plans.

This work builds upon the efforts undertaken by our school community the last few years. A US Department of Education grant funded Project S.U.C.C.E.S.S. that enabled us to implement Responsive Classroom in some elementary schools and increase knowledge and use of Open Circle in others. We were also able to provide professional development for faculty and mental health staff, update processes regarding referrals for outside counseling services and maintain and strengthen a close relationship with the Arlington Youth Counseling Center.

In my October newsletter, I reported on the Lesley Institute for Trauma Sensitivity courses that we are currently offering to our teachers and staff. We routinely conduct Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of our middle and high school populations, have implemented programs around mindfulness and wellness, and we have supplied standing desks and other concentration tools with the help of the Arlington Education Foundation. Additionally, we participate in the community-wide conversations around substance abuse along with the Arlington Police Department and Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition.

Creating the kind of “safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment” that the state identifies as necessary to improve educational outcomes for all students is truly a community effort. I am grateful to have the support of the Commonwealth and the Arlington Education Foundation in our work to identify ways to ensure that our schools are places where all students can thrive.

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