Community Day School (CDS), an alternative program in Oakland Unified School District is the proud home of the Wolverines and is dedicated to using a therapeutic and restorative justice-centered approach to give students a second opportunity to succeed in school. The campus empowers middle and high school students to build upon their strengths by supporting them academically, socially, and emotionally, through individual and small instruction, counseling, and career exploration.
As our students face a broad array of challenges in life, we work to help them understand how change is inevitable and how resiliency is a must. Regardless of the change being negative or positive, the Unconditional Education motto is vibrant at Community Day School. District and Seneca staff are working together to re-open campus and provide students with academic/technical support, meals, and a reliable space for them to find success. OUSD has provided each classroom with two air purifiers and personal protective equipment, and requires all members to complete a daily healthy screening before entering the learning hub. Here are just a few images of how our gorgeous campus is gradually transitioning back after a year of disarray.
Wow, it's February? How did that happen?!?! That the school year is halfway over is probably just one of the many things that is hard to believe right now. Who would have thought a year ago, when we were reviewing the mid-year feedback from our schools and partners, that the work we do, the lives we live, and the world we know would be so fundamentally different today?
This time of year is traditionally used to step back and reflect on how things are going, and given the year we’ve all had, this could not be more important. Our staff have worked tirelessly to collaborate with schools and families to push the bounds of what is possible and redefine how this work is done in the virtual realm. Our UE Mid-Year Survey is conducted through the month of January and helps highlight our successes and, equally important, areas for improvement. These help us to focus our intentions through the end of the year.
Despite the challenges of connectedness and engagement during remote learning, we are excited to report participation in our survey held similar to last year’s reports: almost 90% of partner schools (so far) participated in the survey, with over 540 individual responses!
The Mid-Year Partnership Survey asks our partners how we are doing with components of the UE Model related to Culture and Climate, Direct Services and Progress Reporting. For students receiving direct services at our school sites, we asked our partners two questions:
This year, both questions averaged above our goal of 80% at 94% and 86% respectively! We are very excited by these positive responses; especially given the challenges this year has presented as both our staff and teachers have had to reinvent the ways that lessons are taught, and how staff-support is provided. There is a lot to celebrate here in the strength, skill, and perseverance of these teams.
Data collection and reporting continues to be a program priority this year and is no small task. Teachers, behaviorists, and clinicians have had to rethink how to capture, track and monitor progress data, working closely with students and families to rethink goals and measures that are both applicable to the virtual setting and meaningful as measures of progress. If this wasn't enough, they have also had to contend with the layers of scheduling and technological access barriers in collaborating with entire teams to share the goals being set and the progress being seen. Excitingly this is an area where, at this mid-year point, we saw an increase to 78%, up from 73% last year, and just shy of our goal for the year of at least 80%, which we are hopeful to hit in our End-of-Year Surveys!
The numbers themselves, while guiding and celebratory, don't offer the complete picture. We also ask for specific feedback and suggestions on our partnerships. In reviewing the constructive feedback this year, an interesting trend emerged: our partners want more. They want to know more about what the students are working on, they want to know more about how they can continue to collaborate as a team, they want to know more about our services and how we can continue to support staff, students, and families.
Here are some pieces of feedback we’ve received from partners:
“I would be open to check in with support staff and ways I could support the work Seneca is doing with our students.”
While we seek and value constructive feedback, the open-ended responses were overwhelmingly positive, indicating that we are on the right track in our work to build collaborative, meaningful and supportive practices. We look forward to hearing from our partners again during our End-of-Year Partnership Survey.
While we wait, here are just a few of the incredible highlights shared from the year so far:
“Our [Seneca] counselor shows great energy when teaching a lesson to my students. The positive words he uses on his presentations, motivates students to participate in his class. Kids really like him.”
And I could go on and on.............................
When the shelter in place started nearly a year ago, no one thought the pandemic would last this long. Our world quickly shifted to a virtual platform, and staff, students and families were forced to adapt to a new normal. Students were no longer able to attend school in person, and parents were now faced with keeping their children home full-time. In a program where much of our work is relationship-based and include tangible rewards, we were challenged to find creative and supportive ways to support our families.
One way the SOAPS Program has been able to support our families is through delivering theme-centered bags. Staff personally delivered Halloween-themed bags in October, winter break bags in December, and now will soon be delivering Valentine’s & Black History Month bags next week. The bags are filled with juice boxes, snacks, board games, crafts, and grocery gift cards. These bags are our attempt to keep some normalcy of the school routine where students may normally have classroom socials before the holiday breaks. In addition to providing some needed resources to the families, staff also have the opportunity for some socially-distance and face-to-face time with the students.
Another way SOAPS has supported our families is through providing some basic necessities for students during the pandemic. At the beginning of the school year, staff delivered bags of school supplies to each student to support them with distance learning. Our therapists also created individual therapy boxes for each client to use during their virtual sessions. We have also provided space heaters and other resources when families have been displaced or impacted economically.
Although these gestures may not solve all their struggles, they are our way of reminding families that they have not been forgotten and we are here to continue supporting them to the best of our abilities.
This pandemic has lasted much longer than anyone expected and has taken its toll, not only on the students & families, but on our staff as well. It is in these trying times that our leadership team has had to find creative ways to support our staff and keep them engaged. This year, I have had the opportunity to split my time between two different programs and share in their creative visions for staff participation.
The Light the Change (LTC) Program held their December Dine & Delve over a team Zoom meeting. To add a personal touch to the event, the leadership team personally delivered care packages with crafts, gifts, and GrubHub gift cards to staff. During the Zoom meeting, LTC staff had the option to decorate premade cookies or fill out holiday-sweater coloring pages, all while virtually sharing a meal together. This activity allowed staff the opportunity to have a little fun while learning about important program updates.
The SOAPS Management Team built on their staffs’ common love of cooking and baking by incorporating virtual Chopped Competitions into their staff meetings! The first competition was held in October, and the staff were tasked with creating a main course using Halloween themed mystery basket ingredients. The second competition was held in December, and staff were given the challenge of creating baked goods using sweet & spicy themed mystery basket ingredients. This competitive group thoroughly enjoyed the competitions and are eagerly awaiting the next challenge.
Both programs have taken on different ways to engage staff, and both programs have been successful in their efforts to increase staff morale. This just goes to show that with a little creativity and team building, we can get through anything… even during a pandemic.
Like most students across the country, the Washington Elementary community also began their 2020-21 Academic School year virtually from home. Starting the year with distance learning meant that Leadership had to be creative and think out of the box to keep students connected to school – all whilst maintaining a strong sense of community. Research has shown that creating a sense of belonging and building relationships is critical to ensure students remain engaged and enthusiastic learners. While everything about back-to-school was different, we wanted to create a sense of normalcy by translating our regular routines and practices into virtual platforms. So, we implemented our Monday Morning Announcement videos! The videos were a great way for everyone to start the week with the same message and have opportunities to participate in different challenges and activities as a whole school.
Our Monday Morning Announcement videos have become the catch-all for maintaining consistent connection (virtually) and encouraging our students to be academically motivated and committed to school. We have introduced fun reading challenges for all grade levels and have students submit fun videos with books reviews. We have also used this opportunity to bring the campus to our students – even though they cannot physically be on campus. Each week we reinforce our Dragon values and encourage students to demonstrate our characteristics of being Resilient, Flexible, Empathetic, Persistent and Optimistic. Here is a sample of our Monday Morning Announcements:
The Monday Morning Announcements are the highlight of the week for a lot our students, and we are seeing more and more participation from our Dragon Heroes. Our discussion forum on the announcements is a great place for students to motivate and encourage their peers to work hard and spread joy. The weekly announcements have also helped us achieve our AIP goal of increasing school pride and incorporating more student voice-and-choice in our decision-making processes. Creating this feeling of belonging by fostering school-wide connections between teachers, students and administrators has truly enhanced our virtual learning experience, and hence, we would love to hear from you too! Please share your great ideas for community building and fostering connection during distance in the comments below.
The All-In Leadership Team has committed to reflecting on their personal and professional perpetuation of White Supremacy culture while unlearning and relearning how to dismantle oppressive systems within our program and teams. Through this, we have developed a deeper understanding of what it means to bring equity to the forefront of our work.
Historically, the Behavioral Leadership Team has planned their Professional Learning Community’s scope and sequence for the upcoming school year during the previous summer. This systematic planning consisted of coordinating the facilitation of professional development training with other leaders in our program.
This year, in attempt to build an inclusive environment focused on equity, our Behavior Leadership Team began to dive into dismantling and disrupting White Supremacy culture within our Professional Learning Community. We have applied strategies to shift dynamics of White Supremacy Culture in our work based on Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun’s 15 Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.
The Behavioral Team acknowledges both the spoken and unspoken norms that exist within our strand, and we are working on a collaborative approach that will push us forward, shifting:
In shifting those norms, we have:
White dominant culture has been adopted by many of us through spoken and unspoken norms. Both have contributed to my personal social identity and how I navigate spaces as a Black woman. To increase the eradication of White Supremacy Culture, the Behavioral Strand continues to attend and encourage others to attend development opportunities facilitated by BIPOC people.
Here are a few resources that I have enjoyed reading. Take a look and leave a comment if you’ve read any, or plan on reading any in the future:
Since the start of March our lives have changed dramatically. We’ve shifted our daily routines, the ways in which we interact and connect with others, and how we are able to nourish and sustain our own wellbeing. Many in our communities have lost loved ones, confronted illness, juggled work and family responsibilities, and mustered the resources to make ends meet. Schools, which often serve as a central hub for family support, made an overnight transition to virtual learning. They have had to identify new systems and routines for instruction, connection, and resource delivery all while school personnel negotiate the impact of the changing world in their own lives. Further, the impact of this pandemic and the concurrent national conversation on police violence against the Black community has highlighted the ways in which deep systemic inequities reach across our institutional systems, from health care to criminal justice to education. What is clear is that grand changes are needed in both the short and long term to build more equitable systems.
Through all of these changes what has remained steadfast is our commitment to building systems of education that are strong and inclusive, even in the face of tremendous adversity. Grounded in Seneca’s longstanding mission of connecting with individuals and families during difficult times, we have taken what we know about responding to periods of crisis and applied these same principles to support schools in adapting their practices to the virtual context. We are thrilled to release this piece Implementing Unconditional Education in a Virtual Setting where we have captured what we have learned by working with over 40 schools and districts through this transition to remote learning. This piece is intended to act as a companion to Unconditional Education: Supporting Schools to Serve All Students articulating the adaptations required in the implementation of this framework for a blended or remote learning setting. It aims to highlight how during periods of struggle we can find grounding in the formative beliefs and values that drive our work - our belief in the power of relationship, the collective capacity of teams, and our ability to reach a shared vision when we’ve identified clear goals. In addition, it provides practical considerations for the modification of essential coordination and assessment procedures that drive a multi-tiered system of care. Our hope is to share lessons learned with others who are building systems to support all students, and the adults in their lives, in finding wellness and hope in this challenging time.
The end of the school year should be filled with celebrations and happy memories, but for many of our students this year, that was not the case. Due to the shelter in place, our students who worked hard and achieved their promotions to middle school & high school were not able to participate in their promotion ceremonies. We could not let these huge milestones go uncelebrated and decided to deliver promotion packages to our students at Bridges Academy, Community Day School, Lincoln Middle School, Prescott Elementary School, Sequoia Elementary School, and Think College Now.
School teams gathered together, decorated their cars, made posters, and caravanned to each of our promoting students houses. Staff played music, honked their horns, and cheered loudly as we drove past each student’s house. When we stopped, students were presented with their celebratory package that included balloons, apple cider, a cake, and snacks. In total, the SOAPS Program was able to celebrate 13 students across our 6 campuses with promotion parades and 5 students with promotion cake deliveries. These parades not only showed our students how proud we are of them, but also allowed for community members to celebrate the students as well. At almost every house, neighbors came outside to cheer our students on, and cars drove past us honking and yelling “congratulations”. The support we received from community members as we drove through the streets of Oakland was truly inspiring and showed our students that they are valued and celebrated.
EdSource recently explored the narratives and challenges of student wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic in their ongoing podcast series, “This Week in California Education.” Tune in and listen to our very own Executive Director of School Partnerships, Robin Detterman, as she shares how staff at Seneca are responsively shifting their practice to ensure students stay connected to the mental health services during this time of remote learning (starting at the 10 minute mark). We want to offer a huge shout out to our team members and all mental health practitioners across the nation who are striving to ensure that all students and families remain connected to community and opportunities for wellness. We appreciate you!
Happy February! It's hard to believe that the school year is more than halfway over. Time flies when you're having fun, right? At this time of year, we like to take a breath, step back and ask our partners for feedback on how things are going within our partnerships. The UE Mid-Year Survey is conducted through the month of January and gives us a good read on how things are going. This feedback highlights our successes and areas for improvement, helping us to focus our intentions through the end of the year.
This year, our surveys yielded some exciting feedback about our partnerships so far. The first highlight we saw in the data spoke to the development of both our practices over time and how we have embedded ourselves in the schools we are partnered with. We saw an increase in the number of schools that participated in the survey from 69% in 2019 to 97% this year with over 500 individual respondents! #Together
The Mid-Year Partnership Survey asks our partners how we are doing with components of the UE Model related to Culture and Climate, Direct Services and Progress Reporting. For students receiving direct services at our school sites we asked our partners two questions:
As one of the three main program goals for the 2019-2020 school year, data collection and progress reporting has been on everyone's minds this year. A lot of time, effort and attention has been given this year across our Academic, Behavioral and Clinical teams to develop and implement effective, meaningful practices within their partnership sites. At this mid-year point, we were curious if progress and outcome reports were shared and used for collaboration during meetings with service providers and found that 73% of respondents agreed that they were! While the goal for the year is at least 80% agreement, we celebrate that this is up from 68% this time last year and embrace this forward momentum headed into the second half of the year. #Datatellsastory
All these numbers, while exciting and informative, don't tell the whole story. We also ask our partners for specific feedback and suggestions on how we collaborate and support the growth of our partnerships. This year, aside from being overwhelmingly positive, we noticed a very interesting shift in the qualitative feedback we received. There was a very clear trend this year of school staff expressing a desire for continued collaboration and progress sharing so that they are more able to support the growth of their students. We love seeing this constructive feedback, as it exemplifies the mindset that we are trying to build at partnerships schools, that all students are the responsibility of all staff. #Twofer
We are looking forward to hearing from all our partners again during our End-of-Year Partnership Survey. Without feedback and collaboration from our partners, we couldn't do what we set out to do. While we wait, here are some more partnership highlights from the year so far #Together:
All-In! Partnership Team