Through the support of a grant from Los Angeles Unified School District, we’ve been lucky to be able to provide AFF with an Unconditional Education Coach this school year. AFF’s Coach, Risha Buntyn, has been hard at work this year building relationships with staff and students, and supporting with a wide range of needs. AFF has retained its principal, assistant principal, and several staff from its founding in 2016, and it’s clear from the school’s strong culture and systems how much they’ve benefitted from the continuity and leadership of this core unit. Over these first few months, Risha has been learning systems and absorbing culture while making moves forward on the school culture initiatives in her Annual Implementation Plan (AIP). These supports and goals fall into three areas:
For this week’s blog post, I’m pleased to introduce one of our newest partnerships here in Los Angeles: Ánimo Florence-Firestone Charter Middle School! AFF is one of nineteen Green Dot schools here in LA. The school is in its sixth year, serving 421 students for 6th – 8th Grade. Their campus is in the Florence-Graham neighborhood between (you guessed it) Florence Avenue and Firestone Boulevard. This year marked the opening of a brand-new campus—complete with a ribbon cutting ceremony—which has been super exciting for students and us staff alike!
1. Strengthening Tier 1 Behavioral Supports. As co-lead of AFF’s School Culture Team, Risha has helped lead school-wide efforts to improve classroom management and safe behavior in the school’s common areas. School culture team members do regular walkthroughs and classroom observations, with monthly “look-for’s” and opportunities to provide feedback to fellow teachers.
2. Promote Student Voice and Leadership. In this area, Risha is starting a Student Senate—elections next week! —where student leaders can lend their voice to help address school-related issues. Student Senators will plan and organize special events, choose “Lions (students) of the Month,” and be trained in conflict resolution strategies. In addition to the Senate, Risha has also helped design and facilitate AFF’s monthly data dives into their Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Screener, helping ensure that the opinions that students share on these surveys is translated to action.
3. Cultivate Staff Wellness. Although the transition back to in-person learning has been exciting, it’s also definitely taken its toll on staff returning to the daily grind. Risha has been actively cultivating a culture of wellness and appreciation on campus by providing Professional Development workshops on self-care in September, organizing appreciations (can’t go wrong with cards and food!) to acknowledge staff this month, and constantly making herself available for check-ins and consultations with staff to support on any range of issues.
There’s a lot of school year left ahead of us but things are off to a promising start: We just got the green light from AFF’s leadership team to reapply for grant funding to continue our partnership next school year. Applications are due soon, so fingers crossed!!
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