Northern Minnesota Schools Districts Come Together To Support An Inclusive School Environment
Making sure students, teachers and staff feel welcomed and included is a priority for the state. That’s why the Minnesota Department Of Education is promoting an inclusive school environment with a few trainings.
“What we know from the research is that school climate is a major strategy that helps to make sure that kids feel safe and supported and provides a way for kids to want to feel like they would come to school,” says Nancy Riestenberger, restorative practice specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education School Safety Technical Assistance Center.
There were over 100 people present at the meeting held in Bemidji. Five school districts were represented including Bemidji Area Schools, Blackduck School ISD #32, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School, Cass Lake-Bena Schools, and Red Lake School District ISD #38.
Chad Brown, dean of students for Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig, says, “It’s really nice to work with the principals and superintendents of different schools because they actually see the bigger picture of what’s going on in different schools.”
The group discussed various school-wide initiatives. Most of the districts have already been implementing the practices and have been seeing positive results.
“We’ve incorporated – it’s called the first Six Weeks of School. We’ve created a culturally-infused SEL curriculum where for the first six weeks we focus on building relationships and setting up expectations and routines,” says Susan Olson, curriculum coordinator for Red Lake School District ISD #38.
This was the fourth inclusive school environment training in this area. Many educators noted that this was only the beginning.
“It’s all year, it’s educating ourselves, bringing in other people that are not a part of our team, bringing in other people to become more educated in restorative practices, circle training, languages,” says Kim Coborn, special education teacher emotional behavioral disorders 7-12 for Blackduck School ISD #32.
Tim Lutz, the superintendent for Bemidji Area Schools, says, “As we continue to work month after month, year after year, I believe that our school climate throughout the district will improve and it just takes time to do. It’s a large effort and that’s why I’m glad so many of the Bemidji school staff are here today.”
A few of the educators also noted that the hard work will be worth it.
“What I’m seeing in my building is that we’re giving kids tools that they will use as adults and so when we expand that out into other buildings, other districts and it becomes built into our practice, children are going to walk away with the skills to work with other people, to navigate other systems,” says Sue Chase, principal of Cass Lake-Bena Middle School.
The Minnesota Department of Education plans to continue the training by meeting with each school district individually by the end of this month.