Waterville Junior High School Addresses Core Practice # 7 in Multiple Ways!


This post is the second in a series spotlighting middle grades schools across Maine. We ask the school three questions:

• Which Bright Futures Core Practice does your school address in powerful ways?

• In what ways does your school address this Core Practice?

• How do you know that your school’s actions are making a difference for students?

The author of this post is Kristen Gilbert, assistant principal at Waterville Junior High School .

Waterville Junior High School has been working for three years to address Bright Futures #7.  We are working to affect change in our school climate and culture such that we might create a school in which everyone (students and adults alike) feels welcomed, safe and has a sense of belonging.  Below are a few examples of the work we have been doing.

Diversity Statement

  • Input taken from staff, students and community members around the question “What is important to us in supporting and respecting diversity in our school?”
  • Incorporation of student voices and feedback to create a statement that is meaningful to students

LGBTQ Task Force:

  • Safe zone training for staff
  • Ally training for staff and students
  • LGBTQ awareness in new staff orientation
  • Informational articles provided to staff on sexual minority youth
  • Information on harassment and reducing bias-based harassment in newsletters to parents
  • Students viewed & discussed the “No H8” public service announcement in advisor-advisee groups

Student Body Advocates (SBA) – committee of students for students

  • Analyzed student-reported school data and identified top 5 barriers to school’s ability to create a climate where everyone feels like they belong
  • 2nd year of peer led advisor-advisee activities to raise awareness about harassment and bullying
  • Bridge to Kindness with students’ kindness pledges on it
  • Vines throughout school with leaves indicating positive things about the school (each student made a leaf)

School Climate Committee – Committee of students, parents and school personnel

  • Special Person’s Day held where each student invites two significant adults in their lives to visit the school
  • Social events for students – no charge i.e. Free movies
  • Sponsors end of year fun day and BBQ
  • Cookie decoration day and card making for the elderly
  • Spirit Week friendly competition between grades

Civil Rights Team

  • Recognizes No Name Calling Week in a unique way by focusing on the positive
  • Each year a video is created of students giving Panther PROPS shout outs (People Respecting Other People’s Strengths)
  • Video is shown at a school-wide assembly on Special Persons Day
  • Informal survey of students to see which types of bias-based harassment students felt were the biggest issues
  • Rewrote district harassment policy into kid-friendly language
  • Students led their peers in an activity and discussion as to meaning of the district harassment policy, giving clear examples
  • Sponsored school-wide assembly about cyberbullying
  • Created student-made video about bullying on the bus to show to student body

Safe, Fair, Responsive Schools Pilot Project

  • Did pre and post-surveys in spring 2008 and spring 2009 to examine school climate before & after interventions
  • Have continued to use same survey, thus providing years of data to compare

Restorative School Practice

  • Contracted with Restorative School Practices group over 2009 and 2010 calendar years to provide professional development and consultation for staff
  • All teachers now lead community-building circles once a week during advisor-advisee time

Unity Project

  • Have held 3-4 student leader workshops in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years to teach them how to intervene in low-level bullying and harassment situations (35-40 students at each training)
  • 2 student leader workshops planned for new 6th graders in 2010-2011 school year
  • Conducted focus groups about what students see in school and provided follow-up training for staff on how to address behaviors students are seeing

Health Services

  • Students can be referred to school-based social worker; services are funded through insurance or MaineCare
  • Meetings held with in-home service providers to build and strengthen home to school links
  • On-site dental clinic provides services to students who do not have a dentist
  • Go, Slow, Whoa” program alerts students to which foods are nutritional (“go”) and which are not (“whoa”) and promotes healthy choices

Collaboration with Colby College

  • Student teachers placed in classrooms
  • Mentors paired with individual students and stay with that student for 2-4 years
  • Tutors provide assistance to individual students, classes, and small groups
  • Boys and girls groups led by Colby students examine gender roles and media influences

Transition Support

  • Current 6th graders visit 5th grade classrooms to talk about what life is like at the jr. high and answer questions
  • 5th graders visit the school & get a tour
  • Information night held for parents/guardians of incoming 5th graders
  • 8th graders have visits from high school counselors about course registration
  • High school information night for 8th grade students & parents; tours of high school also given at this event

Evidence of positive effects

  • Decreased suspension rate from 302 to 96 in two years
  • Student planned and led assembly to address a big fight
  • Increased student awareness
  • Increased support and advocacy by students for students
  • Tree of Positive Traits and Bridge to Kindness campaign
  • Increased participation by staff in safe zone and ally training


One Response to “Waterville Junior High School Addresses Core Practice # 7 in Multiple Ways!”

  1. Argy Nestor Says:

    Wow! You, Kristen, the staff, and students at Waterville Jr. High School have clearly given a great deal of thought to the planning and implementation of this work. It is evident that the program is extremely worthwhile and provides so much for students! Thanks for the great post.

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