Submitted by Rene Carroll
Jemtegaard Middle School is the recipient of the 2019 Whole Child Award selected by the Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The Whole Child Award is intended to acknowledge and honor a school that has made significant contributions to student learning by creating a school culture with programs that exemplify two or more of the five tenets of The Whole Child Initiative: Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported, and Challenged; as well as serve as models for all educators across the state. “Our staff can think of no bigger honor then to be recognized for striving to meet the many needs of our kids,” said JMS Principal, David Cooke. “It takes a lot of work, but the results are worth it.”
JMS will receive their award at a school assembly on Wednesday, May 8. They will also receive a check for $500, sponsored by SHAPE Washington.
“Equity and meeting the needs of the Whole Child is what drives the work of administrators, teachers, staff and community members at JMS,” said Cooke. “We continue to listen and learn from our students so that we can improve to give each one the best chance of success. We focus strongly on equity and supporting the Whole Child. The tenants we focused on for consideration for this award were our work in safety and support as well as engagement.”
JMS has developed a sustainable Student Support Protocol to foster a positive working relationship with peers and teachers for students to feel safe and supported in the classroom. Their Student Support Flowchart works to eliminate disruptive and/or off task behavior that can be damaging to the relationship between the student and teacher. “Our primary process goals are to keep students in the learning environment as long as possible, allow teachers to keep teaching, even after problem behavior has occurred, and provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their behavior and have a voice in the refocus process,” explained Cooke.
As a result, this method has led to an 80 percent drop in disciplinary referrals this year, minimal suspensions and a high approval rating from staff. Many students who received disciplinary referrals on a regular basis last school year are having minimal discipline concerns now.
“The most effective way for students to learn is to be in the classroom with a quality teacher every day,” said Cooke. “With this new student support process, out of class time was reduced to five minutes for minor issues and up to twenty minutes for major issues for the majority of discipline referrals.”
Restorative practices have also played an integral role in repairing relationships and restoring safety after bullying occurs. “Traditionally, bullies had been punished through exclusionary discipline,” said Cooke. “At JMS, restorative practices have been used to bring all parties together so that the victim and family can explain how the bullying has impacted them and what they need from the student doing the bullying in order to feel safe.” They have found that in 100 percent of bullying cases this year, with clear expectations and procedures for Restorative Circles used, none of the students have violated the conditions after the meeting or continued bullying at JMS. Parents and guardians also appreciate the opportunity to meet each other and support all students.
“There are many people who support our mission including parents, community and educators across the district,” Cooke said. “As a team we have created a school that our students, staff and community can be proud of.” An example of this teamwork is the Club 8 after-school program that helps keep students engaged in additional learning opportunities including arts, science, leadership activities and more. The program was developed two years ago and meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. The name represents an 8th period of the school day for learning.
“The goal of this program was to address an equity issue related to lack of extracurricular opportunities for students on free and reduced lunch who did not have access to transportation,” Cooke explained. Club 8 not only provides a bus ride home to remove the transportation barrier but provides all students an afternoon snack. The program regularly has around 90 students in attendance for a school just over 500 (not including 7th and 8th grade athletics with 40-70 students per season.) The list of opportunities offered by Club 8 continue to grow as the support of community members continue to reach out to offer their services.
Adding to the positive culture of JMS, the entire student body worked on community service projects earlier this year. Students picked the project that interested them the most which included building bird houses, making animal toys for a local shelter, creating positive posters to hang on the hall walls, helping run games at the elementary school recess and more.
“I’m proud of the hard work the Jemtegaard school staff and community does to educate the whole child,” said WSD Superintendent, Dr. Mary Templeton. “They have embarked on a journey to shift the culture of the school, focusing on identifying ways students may fall through the cracks, and ways in which they can provide resources to keep students engaged in learning, encourage safe choices, and provide students with the problem solving skills to succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
Founded in 1956, as Washington State Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, now known as Washington State ASCD, is a community of all educators committed to promoting promising practices to ensure ALL students are safe, healthy, engaged, supported and challenged.