- Wichita Public Schools
- Superintendent Kelly Bielefeld
Posted by Kelly Bielefeld on 10/27/2023
Our work to keep schools safe is essential to our success as a district.
As part of our work on the current strategic plan, we have added many measures over the past years and a few specifically this fall. We have new secured access points at 13 schools as part of capital investments. We have added additional assistant principals at a few buildings. We are in the process of shifting some key personnel, who were hired with ESSER funds, to the permanent budget. These staff include security guards, counselors, and social workers across the district. We are also in the process of consolidating mentoring programs under the office of Equity, Inclusion and Accountability.
Through all this work, we have embedded the use of Restorative Practices, a tool that helps to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within groups. Restorative Practices training helps adults create a climate of belonging and trust into each of our school communities. It is rooted in restorative justice and the idea that when we cause harm, we have to restore the relationship for the sake of the team. This does not mean students who cause harm don’t also receive consequences. Consequences alone many times do not change behavior, which is our ultimate goal for preparing students for life. None of us wants to live in a future where students bring harm to the community. As best we can, we hope to support all students to lead a productive and meaningful life.
Restorative Practices is not a magic bullet that will solve all behavioral issues in our district, especially some of the more intense. When we hear about students who are disruptive in our schools, the common gut-reaction might be a feeling of “kick them out” or “lock them up.” We know that taking an approach like that with a dysregulated student doesn’t serve the student or our society well.
This is a gap in our system and one that we are focusing more resources on. We need restorative and therapeutic options for students who have experienced trauma and for students with a behavioral disability that might impact their learning. Through community connections, wrap-around services, and specialized training for teachers, we believe we can improve our system in this area.
We have work to do, but we continue to see improvements in safety as a district. I believe the incorporation of Restorative Practices has helped, in part, to bring about the improved safety.