School Climate Plan

Gales Ferry/Juliet W. Long Schools                                        School Climate Specialist: Principal

Our main focus is helping students build a strong character. We use the Connected and Respected program to help students learn and apply important skills. Monthly All School Meetings serve as a time to gather to share new learning and focus on specific character traits.  All members of the learning community strive to be empathetic and inclusive.

Classroom teachers use Responsive Classroom techniques to build a sense of community and help each student develop a strong sense of self.  From day one, students play an active role in developing classroom rules and establishing appropriate consequences. Class meetings serve as a time for teachers and students to model and discuss appropriate behaviors as well as problem solve issues that arise. Classroom teachers use mentor texts to spark rich discussions about decisions we all face on a regular basis.

Our goal is to help students make good choices and take ownership of their actions. We want all students to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Every staff member uses a levels of behavior chart to ensure constant language throughout the learning community. Students use the levels of behavior to “label” their actions and articulate their thinking. They are taught how to use “I” messages to share feelings and handle situations. Large, dangerous, or scary problems are immediately reported to an adult.

Students are recognized for making good choices. They can earn a Colonel Compliment when they are “caught” doing the right thing. These compliments are stored in a special jar in the office. One student is selected from the compliment jar each day and receives a small prize and has his/her name read over the morning announcements.

The Second Step and Zones of Regulation programs, used by the school psychologist, teach children empathy skills, impulse control, and anger management skills. The school psychologist also visits classrooms to conduct group character education lessons. Ideas from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking that help students improve their perspective taking and social interactions serve as a wonderful springboard for class discussions. The school psychologist also facilitates lunch bunch groups to address specific issues and challenges students face.

To build upon what is done in the classrooms to promote a positive school climate, we involve parents and the community as much as possible. Parent volunteers are welcome and encouraged to give of their time and talents. We encourage students and their families to participate in community service projects and school sponsored events. The school is fortunate to house the Jaret Kulmann Food Locker, which allows students and their families to collect food items and toiletries to give back to the community. A weekly backpack program has served many needy families. Students with special needs use the food locker as a pre-vocational opportunity in collaboration with their classroom peers. Several classrooms participate in grants which provide them the opportunity to pair with students from a different socio-economic population. Many classes pair up with another grade level class in order to help students make connections and build friendships.

When students struggle socially and emotionally, we have several programs that provide support. Staff members who supervise the playground are trained to help students handle difficult situations that sometimes arise. These staff members monitor student behavior, provide students with breaks when necessary, and work with students on the playground to ensure that everyone is included in games. Our buddy benches also help students spot a peer who needs a friend. We have several therapy dogs who visit the schools on a weekly basis. These dogs and their handlers work with individual students, visit classrooms, and often serve as a reward for students working toward a specific goal. The D.A.R.E. program offers fifth grade students the chance to work closely with a youth officer to learn about the dangers of drug use and the challenges they will face with peer pressure. Ledyard Youth Services also works with students on site as needed.

The School Climate/Safety Committee meets monthly to review discipline data. If patterns are evident, the committee develops an action plan to address the identified area of concern. We often host parent-child activity nights to help strengthen relationships between parent and child, as well as build connections to other families in the community.