From D65 superintendent: Important update regarding Haven’s culture and climate

Evanston / Skokie School District 65 sent out the following email about Haven Middle School on Monday morning:

Dear District 65 Parents and Families,

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an important update related to Haven’s ongoing culture and climate issues. District and school leaders are very aware of the challenges that Haven students and staff members are currently facing and that these issues have been long-standing. These are situations that we are collectively concerned about and we recognize that Haven’s landscape must be intentionally addressed.

The safety of our students and staff remains the District’s highest priority. We have observed that students have been engaged in a few physical altercations at Haven and remain just as concerned for Haven staff who may have been impacted during these incidences. Even within the last two weeks, our district leadership has seen two explicit conflicts between students – the most recent of which was a spillover of a community incident at the Robert Crown Center.

In thinking about student behavior and a school’s culture and climate, it is important that data is used as a key figure in centering these ongoing conversations. Upon reviewing the reported incidents at Haven over the past year, it is important to note that a bulk of the behavioral issues at Haven stem from two main factors. First, it should be noted there appears to be a small percentage of students experiencing behavioral issues at Haven and this group seems to be tied to the bulk of the challenges that staff and their student peers are facing. Secondly, as a community, we must acknowledge the impact that the pandemic continues to have on all of our students and staff.

Diving deeper into this data, it should also be noted that even prior to the pandemic, student behavior and discipline has been a continued problem for Haven. This data tells the clear story that this targeted group of students needs deeper social and emotional support and resources and that these situations are not necessarily representative of a wider District 65 issue, but that this issue is localized and specific to the Haven community. How we, as a community, respond to this data will influence our path moving forward in helping to create a more positive, safer climate for all of Haven.

The District is dedicated to enhancing collaboration with Haven families and staff in redefining this climate. Our leadership teams have committed to providing further staffing support for students, including the addition of two new school counselors, eight hall monitors, and a third assistant principal that has been added to Haven’s leadership team. I am also happy to share that we are training 40 staff members across the district to implement a refined model of our Restorative Practices framework. This will see that two staff members will be trained to be certified leads at each of our schools and the creation of a sustainable pipeline of trainers to come.

Traditionally, the District has been able to partner with a former city program, Youth and Family Support, wherein this group served as a liaison for Haven and its students and families to bridge any gaps in intervention services. While these services are no longer available, we are seeking to find a way to reignite a similar structure with our current community partners. At the district-level, I would also like to share that this past year, 30 staff members across the district were engaged in Crisis Prevention Interventions (CPI) training to learn about effective de-escalation strategies and tactics in better managing student conflict and behavioral incidents. Currently, only one staff member at Haven is trained in this practice. I recognize that this number may appear low, and for context, the CPI recertification is required every two years and must be completed on-site. Due to obstacles presented by the pandemic, this training was not offered until this school year. We will train an additional eight staff members, at a minimum, at Haven to increase our de-escalation efforts. Staff that are trained in CPI are better equipped in supporting de-escalating incidences and supporting physical altercations. It should be noted that, unfortunately, the one individual who is trained in CPI was supporting other students when recent events escalated at Haven.

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