Sonoma County Office of Education

SCOE Launches Restorative Culture Collaborative

08/22/2016 - Restorative

Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) on June 15 launched a year-long effort to help local schools build communities that are grounded in empathy, equity, and student engagement.

The effort, called the Restorative Culture Collaborative, kicked off with teams of teachers, counselors, community partners, principals, campus supervisors/ student advisors, and others gathering for a three-day introduction to concepts such as how trauma can impact a child’s ability to learn; how to build positive school culture based on student engagement (Restorative Practices); and the importance of engagement as a factor in equitable teaching — as well as presentations by local schools that have been leaders in this area. Teams from more than 20 Sonoma County schools representing 11 districts attended, with more than 80 people participating.

Jessica Progulske, SCOE’s student engagement and restorative practices coordinator, said she was inspired to see school staff at every level invested in the process of creating a plan specific to their school.

“One moment that really stood out is when I saw a table of nine or so campus supervisors talking about what student engagement looks like and what they can do to encourage it,” she said. Campus supervisors patrol and monitor school sites to ensure safety and security. “They are such an untapped resource. They intimately know their students and are the eyes and ears of the community. If we can think from that level all the way up to superintendent about how we build community - that’s pretty cool.”

This initiative stems from recommendations by the CALLE Task Force, created after the shooting of Andy Lopez, and is funded by a $100,000 grant from Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, with $80,000 going directly to schools. School districts across California and beyond are turning to Restorative Practices as a means to reduce suspensions and expulsions and keep children in school. Restorative Practices go beyond addressing discipline to embody many facets of school culture and encourage students to feel invested in their education. Sonoma County’s largest school district, Santa Rosa City Schools, has notably adopted both these practices in recent years and as a result has seen its suspension and expulsion rates plummet.

Each school’s three to seven team members are meant to return to their schools and implement what they learned, with ongoing assistance from SCOE. Schools will receive grant money from the board of supervisors as well. They will also be looking at ways they can partner with community organizations, such as the nonprofit organization Restorative Resources, as well as local law enforcement representatives.

Steven Kellner, superintendent of the West Sonoma County Union High School District, had this to say of the collaborative kickoff in June: “With a topic like this one it is very easy to take a prescriptive ‘one size fits all’ approach that addresses surface level concerns. What we have experienced over the last two days has challenged us to create customized, nuanced solutions that adapt to each of our school climates and cultures.”

Kicking off the week were a number of powerful presentations, including ones by various school districts who are already utilizing restorative practices. Participants also raved about a presentation by Brian Farragher, Executive Director of Hanna Boys Center, on how traumatic childhood experiences can negatively impact student learning.

“Thank you for letting us focus for three whole days on ways to help our students in a more holistic way,” said one participant in a survey. “Yes, data is important and math and ELA scores are important... but the reality is that we have seen first-hand that students' good mental health is crucial to that learning! And they are suffering. Our organizations are dysfunctional, and we need support in trying to foster healthy organizations that will allow individuals to reach their full potential.”

Participating schools include:

Adele Harrison Middle School
Altimira Middle School
Analy High School
Brook Haven Middle School
El Camino High
El Molino High School
Geyserville New Tech Academy
Healdsburg High School
Healdsburg Junior High School
Laguna High School
Lawrence E. Jones Middle School
Piner Olivet Charter
Rancho Cotate High School
SCOE Alternative Education
Technology High School
Technology Middle School
Thomas Page Academy
Willowside Middle School
Windsor High School
Wright Charter School