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We want to share the steps we have already taken and the steps we will be taking to address improving our school culture and climate at Danvers Public Schools (DPS).  These are topics that have long concerned us and were raised in the Attorney General’s letter as well.  These issues are all the more important given our complex, difficult, and ever-changing world.

What we can do and are committed to doing is both sharing what we have done to improve the culture of DPS  in general and the Danvers High School’s athletic programs more specifically since December of 2021.  We know words alone are insufficient; deeds speak louder and better.

It is in the spirit of transparency that we are sharing some examples of the work we’ve done (items in blue) and we are and will be doing (items in green) over the coming academic year.   This webpage will be updated regularly to keep all our stakeholders informed of our ongoing work and accomplishments.  We hope it will provide you with not only a better awareness of what we are achieving but also our commitment to ongoing improvement.

Themes for this work include but are not limited to a developing an understanding of individual identities and those of others; implementing anti-bias and anti-racist pedagogy; responding promptly to biased, racist, and bullying and harassment incidents; collaborating and cross-institutional sharing and learning; fostering leadership among students at all ages and stages; and creating safe and supportive learning environments and psychosocial development for all our students.

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Identity Work (all levels PreK-12)

PreK-12 teachers and staff experienced professional learning where they worked to understand their identity and the identities of others.  This work also consisted of start-of-school activities for students in order to develop a safe and supportive learning environment in their classrooms.  Understanding oneself is a foundational aspect of understanding others. 

Next Steps: We will continue to build on and deepen this work during the start of the 2022-2023 school year including identity activities for each class to provide a foundation for our safe and supportive learning environments. Our Social Emotional Learning time will focus on explicit instruction of the five SEL competencies that help students understand themselves and their peers. This time will also be a place where students are able to process any current events within or outside the schools that raise issues of discrimination, bias, and identity.

Holocaust Symposium (Thursdays, January 6 – February 10, 2022)

Debbie Coltin from the Lappin Foundation led a Danvers Intergenerational group of Danvers High students, teachers, administrators, and Danvers community members of 39 students and 34 adults learning for six weeks together about the Holocaust.  The Symposium included materials about the Holocaust including primary sources, films, survivor testimony, a community book discussion, and a closing lecture by Dr. Chris Mauriello, Salem State University history professor and Director of its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  

Since antisemitic graffiti appeared in our schools in 2021, the need to understand the Holocaust is a first step in raising awareness of offensive behavior against religious groups.  The expectation is that those in attendance will share their experiences at the Symposium and start a recognition of the need to recognize the multiple belief systems within our community and the steep and unforgettable price paid as a result of the Holocaust.

In addition to the six-week symposium at DHS, Debbie Coltin worked with HRMS to bring Holocaust survivor and author Mr. Michael Gruenbaum to speak to the entire Holten-Richmond community on Holocaust Rememberance Day (1/27/22).  This event helped the HRMS students develop an understanding of the enduring impact of the Holocaust and how this connects to their school community.

Next Steps: Moving forward, we will process as a community the offensive speech or graffiti that appears in our schools. We will continue to discuss the impact of hate speech and hate symbols and take steps to restore the school community so that all member identities are seen, valued and heard. A possibility for our work to eradicate hate symbols and speech in our communities is to turn the hate speech/symbols to positive speech/symbols. We will gather representative adults and students in our school communities to develop plans for this work. One important aspect to combating hate speech and symbols is to move the bystanders in our school community to become upstanders who do not stand by passively but act against hate speech or symbols. Plans for this work to understand the importance of being an upstander will be integrated in our SEL lessons at the elementary level, Project HAWK lessons at HRMS, and community block lessons at DHS.

ADL Anti-Bias Training (DHS 2/2022 and Elementary 5/2022)

The following are the objectives ADL summary/objectives for the Danvers faculty and staff through ADL’s dynamic and interactive professional development workshop: To identify strategies that foster a safe environment for discussions on race, culture, and other aspects of human identity; to examine explicit and implicit racial, cultural and other forms of identity-based bias and their systemic manifestations; and to increase awareness of personal responses to racial, cultural and other human differences and the impact of those responses.

Establishing family committees to ensure transparency around climate and culture

The CCT committee at Danvers High School is made up of administrators, faculty and teachers with the goal of strengthening the relationship between school and families. Using protocols the committee engaged in a series of meetings to answer questions, discuss pertinent topics and help families feel more engaged and connected to the climate and culture of the school. The committee also sought to provide a safe and transparent environment in which important topics could be discussed.

Moving forward the members of the committee will be invited to complete a Google Form that will allow participants to provide feedback about their experience. Additionally, the Google Form will help establish a focus for the continued work of the committee for the 2022-2023 school year. The committee will meet regularly during the 2022-2023 school year.

The Middle School Climate and Culture Committee was a group of administrators and parents working together to discuss the current climate of the building and the perception of the school outside the building.  The group used a protocol to identify positive aspects of the school culture as well as negative aspects of the school culture.  The group also discussed ways to improve student and staff morale while also creating a community where all families felt engaged.

Moving forward the goal is to develop a larger more representative group with the focused goal of building connections between the school and different community groups. In addition, the group will focus on seeking out speakers who could continue to enrich the student experience and improve their understanding of different perspectives and cultures

Culturally Responsive Practices Leadership Academy (CRPLA) (ongoing monthly meetings for SY 2021-2022 through SY 2023-2024)

DPS began its first year in DESE’s Culturally Responsive Practices Leadership Academy.  This academy’s goal is to support our district leadership in building internal local capacity to weave culturally responsive practices and a racial equity lens throughout their pedagogy, policies, structures, and systems. They developed activities to help us learn the foundational content of equity and eventually create strategic goals to embed culturally responsive and equitable practices across our district. We examined content on the intersection of race, culture, class, and schooling.  We learned to apply this knowledge through an “Equity Planning Tool” which focused on our goal to hire a more diverse workforce in the Danvers Public Schools.  

Members of the Danvers CRPLA Team:  Tinamarie Sheckells (Elementary), Stephanie Bruno (Middle School), John White (High School, Julie Posternack (Elementary), Martha Jancaitis (Elementary), Ellyn Feerick (Middle School), Peter DiMauro (High School), Adam Federico (High School), Lyn O’Neil (District), Robin Doherty (District), Mary Wermers (District).

Next Steps: Our work with CRPLA over the next school year is to deepen our understanding for the use of the Equity Planning Tool to accomplish the following SMART Goal we set for the 2022-2023 school year: By September 1, 2023, Danvers Public Schools will have at least 25% of all new hires who are culturally or linguistically diverse.

Kindness Mural Project Award

Highlands Elementary School students and their parents worked on the Kindness Rocks mural project together that was awarded to DPS.  This project’s purpose is to cultivate connections within communities and lift others up through simple acts of kindness. Younger and older siblings at Highlands worked on the murals together. The art room was abuzz as families entered and drew on the murals and chatted. Teachers came through too. What emerged is powerful: words and illustrations reflecting kindness and care were created by a community. Folks of all ages worked together. The lead art  teacher took the Kindness Project idea and accompanying initial mural and grew the idea so that many more students and their families could participate. When the original mural and the added murals are all completed, all (save one) will hang on the walls of the Highlands Elementary School. The last remaining completed mural will be sent to the Uvalde School District in the hope that it can provide some comfort affected by the elementary school shooting. The mailing of that mural to the Uvalde community will contain a statement crafted by students as to the hopes that the mural brings for a better tomorrow.

Next Steps: We will continue to seek out and develop other art installation projects as a means of healing, creating sense of community, and cultivating creativity. To that end, we are hoping for other awards from the Kindness Rocks Project.

Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport in Society (April 1st and 2nd, 2022)

Facilitators from Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society trained members of the Danvers Public Schools community on issues of social justice and equity as part of their “Don’t Hate the Player” curriculum module.  

Capitalizing on the power of sports and the dynamics of team sports, the workshop provided tools, guidance, and resources on how to enter into and sustain the difficult conversations that are affecting so many parts of society.  Icebreakers, small group work, videos, personal stories, and a variety of interactive activities were utilized to help convey hypothetical and real-world examples to participants.  Two groups were trained: one group of adult teachers, parents, administrators, coaches, community members and another group of Danvers High School students.  

Next Steps: We are working on an athletics handbook and strengthening the role of captains. We will look to Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society to host a similar training for our sport team captains and coaches. During the sport season, coaches and captains will support the teams to combat bias or hate language. We hope that the statement of non-harassment and being a good sports fan will be read aloud at all sports events by participating athletes from both/all teams rather than the announcer.

MIAA Course and Summit (Jan. 19th, 21st and 24th, 2022)

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association asked student-athletes and coaches this winter to sign a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pledge and take an implicit bias training course from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

In addition, student representatives of DHS Athletics attended the MIAA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit on January 21, 2022.  The summit was designed to empower each participant with the skill set and tools necessary to advocate for change where and when a non-inclusive environment may exist. During the summit, student athletes were encouraged to be an upstander and not a bystander. 

Next Steps: During the summer of 2022, DHS will create a DHS Athletics Handbook. This handbook will communicate the expectations for student athletes at Danvers High and all athletes will sign a pledge to adhere to the expectations during their specific sport season. Starting in Summer 2022, we will be implementing changes to Danvers High School Athletic Team Captains responsibilities these student athletes need to undertake within their team and the larger school community. These are going to be framed as true leadership opportunities and there will be training for Captains throughout the school year, In addition, these Captains will find “voice” and an opportunity to offer suggestions for improving athletic culture as part of a DHS Athletic Council.

DHS Students Supporting Elementary Field Day Events (June 2022)

Danvers High Athletes returned to their elementary schools to assist with the end of year field days.  Students helped with activity stations and DHS Art students helped capture the graduating 5th grade students’ desire to be a Falcon.

Next Steps: Each school’s mural will welcome the incoming 6th graders for their first day of school at HRMS on September 7, 2022. Our intention is to have these murals follow the students to Danvers High School – welcoming students for their first day of school there in September of 2025 and being present at their graduation in June of 2029. We will continue to find opportunities for cross level collaboration where DHS students are working with their elementary and middle level peers as they can help the younger students understand the vast opportunities and strong student community that exists at DHS.

DHS Student Clubs that Work to Address Issues of Bias, Hate, and Discrimination

Anti-discrimination Club, Issues to Action, Women of the World, Students Against Destructive Decisions, PRISM (Pride, Raising Awareness, Involvement, Support and Mentoring Alliance), DanversCares Student Leaders, HRIC Student Representatives, and DHS Community Block Leaders

Issues to Actions is a student-led club which serves to raise awareness on a variety of issues within DHS. They seek to create an environment that promotes acceptance, education, and inclusion. Throughout the year, they have communicated with the administration in order to address many issues while also offering a student perspective. The club’s biggest impact on the school community this year was creating and implementing the anonymous reporting form, which serves as a safe way for students to make faculty aware of incidents of biased misconduct that occurs within the school or community without the fear of being a target of harassment.   NEED MORE ON FORM AND WHAT YOU ARE DOING WITH THEM WHEN SUBMITTED. THIS CAN BE AS A NOTE.

The DanversCARES Youth Leaders participated in a myriad of activities to strengthen and fortify the culture and climate at Danvers High School this year. From the feedback we received after our youth forum with Beverly Hospital in the fall, we were able to help identify the priority health and social needs within the DHS community, including various economic and environmental factors that impact the ability to achieve optimal health and equity. From there we were able to guide our priorities and plan our events to ensure students a more positive and healthy high school experience. Our Youth Leaders attended and helped out at the Downtown Holiday Tree Lighting; they wrote compelling and timely articles for the Teen Health and Safety Guide; and they ran a successful Prom Dress Drive to raise money for those less fortunate. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the DanversCARES Youth Leaders this year was their role in planning and volunteering at the Healing and Unity Event (HUE) in the Spring. Sponsored by a grant from Boston Bridges, this culminating activity celebrated the many cultures that make up our town, was an integral step in mending our community and proving how we are so much better when we work together for the common good. 

This year, Women of the World hosted its 7th annual Holiday Drive for Rosie’s Place, the Boston-based women’s shelter, during the month of December. In January, member Jewo Jetta took part in a video production reflecting the values of MLK for the town’s annual MLK Day Celebration (hosted by Danvers’ Human Rights Inclusion Committee/HRIC). During March (Women’s History Month),  members of the club served as moderators for the HRIC’s Women’s History Month Speaker Series, spotlighting local female leaders, and filmed by DCAT. In addition, throughout Women’s History Month, students presented a daily “female leader” over the morning announcements, which corresponded with the slides that were posted in the Danvers High atrium. In June, WoW took an educational and political stance concerning Roe v. Wade by posting informative highlights from the news, as well as pro-choice slogans that reflected the stance of club members, on the WoW bulletin board in Danvers High.

The Students Against Destructive Decisions Club is committed to encouraging young people to become leaders in their community through positive and healthy decisions in their everyday lives. SADD helps empower DHS students to face challenges head on through kindness, courageousness, communication, and positivity. Our ultimate goal is to create a healthier and safer world through our positive actions in the school and community. We organize events like food drives, blood drives, A Day of Kindness, prevention programs, and the #WHYYOUMATTER project in order to encourage leadership, acceptance, resilience, and respect.

Community Block at Danvers High School is a multi-purpose time during the day for students to complete and manage school work, engage in social emotional activities, and participate in whole school and grade level events that build school spirit and culture.  Goals of the programming include student leadership, meaningful relationship building, citizenship, and inclusion, acceptance and understanding.  The Leadership and Community course at DHS helps prepare student leaders to facilitate this work and provides opportunity for growth and awareness around school issues and current events.  Community Block is an evolving aspect of the DHS schedule and will continue to be a place for innovative learning for students of all levels and backgrounds.   

Students in PRISM this year planned and coordinated the first annual Trans Day of Visibility at Danvers Town Hall. There was an excellent turn out from local residents, families, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In March, they also coordinated a full-school walk out at DHS in order to protest hateful anti-LGBTQ+ legislation passing into law around the United States. Additionally, these students collaborated with the Director of Equity and Inclusion, Jasmine Ramón, to participate in Danvers’ HUE Event, working with the Danvers community on an identity fluency craft. Students of PRISM are excited to continue their work uplifting the LGBTQ+ community and educating others about allyship. DHS has established affinity groups for its student body. Specifically DHS has a group for students of color that meets one per 7 day cycle and a second group for native Portuguese speakers that also meets once per 7 day cycle. These groups are facilitated by DHS faculty members.

Next Steps: We are encouraging students involved in these clubs to showcase their work to the community through participation in Town Committees, presentation at School Committee, HRIC, Select Board meetings, and participate in community events like the Healing, Unity and Equity Event, and the annual MLK Day Celebration. We will also encourage our younger students at the elementary schools and Holten-Richmond Middle School to take part in similar activities in their clubs (ex. Student councils at the elementary schools, Junior National Honor Society at HRMS, Literary Magazine at HRMS, etc).

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