Strides to support the 'whole' student

Making strides to support the 'whole' student
Posted on 09/14/2020
 Mosiacs Club at IHS

In the first paragraph of the West Irondequoit Central School District’s mission statement, it reads: “Our community welcomes each child, nurtures each mind and inspires each other to peak performance.” To achieve that, now more than ever, requires sup- porting Social and Emotional Learning needs or “SEL” of students. West Irondequoit has started several initiatives to benefit the development of the whole child. Some of those include:

  • The addition of a Supervisor of Counseling, Student Equity and Wellness
  • The addition of a new COVID-19 Counselor
  • Two new Youth Assistants for Irondequoit HS and Dake Junior HS
  • A new PEAK program at IHS and Dake
  • Development of a new Coalition for Diversity & Equity

The district has hired Mr. Joe Jackson as the new Counseling, Student Equity and Wellness supervisor. He is scheduled to start later this month and will be instrumental in supporting SEL programs district- wide. Mr. Scott Steinberg, a veteran counselor in the district, is the new COVID-19 Counselor. He will support students K-12 with unique needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as anxiety, trauma and necessary life adjustments. Steinberg is about to start his 20th year in West Irondequoit, including the past eight as a counselor at Irondequoit High School. Prior to coming to the WICSD, he was a K-6 counselor in Spencerport.

“I know how difficult this pandemic has been for our students and their families,” said Steinberg, whose first two weeks in West Irondequoit was amid the 9/11 tragedy. “This role isn’t meant to replace our building-level counselors. I am an additional layer for the COVID- and quarantine-related needs of our students – just more support for our community.”

The Youth Assistants are Mr. James Elliott, who has been a part of the WICSD security team, and Mr. Floyd Gibson, a new hire. “As we integrate more restorative practices into our buildings, we are balancing our resources to secure our buildings while providing access to trusted adults with the time to help,” said Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Johnson. “James and Floyd will invest in meaningful and reflective conversations with students. These practices will help foster relationships, build community and repair harm.”

What are restorative practices?

“They’re about building a culture based on community and relationships,” said Johnson, who has worked closely with WICSD’s Leadership Team in this initiative. “Restorative practices are about recognizing when you’ve harmed others or felt harmed yourself and then taking the time to repair that harm and the relationships that were damaged.”

A common misunderstanding about restorative practices, John- son said, is that they don’t include consequences. “They do. They’re an important component of restorative practices – to convey a level of accountability – sometimes natural and sometimes imposed upon.”

The new PEAK program stands for: Promoting Excellence And Kindness. On Wednesdays this fall when there is no synchronous instruction, students in grades 7-12 will meet virtually in small groups with a trusted adult – a sort of weekly “check-in” for approximately 30 minutes to make sure everyone is managing life in these strange days.

“As we strive to empower kids to reach their ‘peak performance,’ SEL is a big part of that,” said Mrs. Karen Finter, the WICSD’s Director of Instruction for grades 7-12.

The Coalition for Equity & Diversity, a mission developed over the summer, will be comprised of a variety of key community voices, including students, parents, faculty and staff. It will work as an advisory group to the Superintendent regarding systems, policies, practices and experiences related to equity, access and diversity.

“We are committed to cultivating a welcoming environment that appreciates diversity, strives for inclusivity and fights for equity,” Johnson said. “This moral imperative is reflected in our commitment to opportunities such as the Urban-Suburban Program, Mosaics Club, the Pathways to Teaching program and being the spark that created Roc2Change – the Student Summits on Race. We are working hard to embed and sustain culturally responsive practices into our classrooms and build a restorative community that supports every student.”