Dedicate more focus towards student safety & well-being
We want to ensure that our kids feel safe and comfortable at school so that they can grow emotionally, socially and intellectually. The complexity of achieving that goal grows with each passing year. Westfield schools have made strides addressing both the physical security of the facilities and the emotional well-being of students. Yet, these are areas we need to continue focusing resources. There are two areas we can continue to invest to keep these goals prioritized:
Resources supporting our student’s social & emotional well being
I was very pleased when Westfield schools made SEL (Social & Emotional Learning) a priority last year. My focus going forward is to ensure 1) we are monitoring our initiatives to gauge if they are making an impact (especially among older students, who are the ones most at risk), and 2) we are continuing to study the most recent research to guide our future investments in this area. The tangible actions I would want to evaluate with the Board and Administration are:
- Institute a recurring survey of older students to gauge whether district initiatives are having positive effects in areas of stress, anxiety & depression
- Explore alternatives which provide additional time for older students to manage significant academic and extracurricular burdens (Block scheduling, enrichment mornings, later school starts)
- Study the impact of counselors at middle and high school and evaluate if ratios are appropriate to properly serve students
Deeper evaluation of the security of our facilities
Over the past two years, the Board & Administration have instituted a wide range of measures to make our school buildings more secure. As we continue to evaluate future measures, I think more frequent communications and engagement with parents is important. The options I would advocate to evaluate are:
- Initiate community meetings (in conjunction with local police) with the explicit purpose to educate parents on the range of alternatives that districts throughout NJ are pursuing. If we don’t all have a shared understanding of the options and the research, it is impossible to have a thoughtful and productive dialogue.
- Ensure that parent voices are a more consistent presence on the topic by considering a safety subcommittee to the Facilities Committee of the Board, and have it include a selection of parents from across the district. More frequent and balanced conversations are more likely to yield carefully researched and broadly supported measures.