Schools’ climate teams work to improve IMS, IMMS

The school climate teams at Indian Mills School and Indian Mills Memorial School have been working around the clock with administrators to improve the schools for students and staff. 

At the Oct. 15 board of education meeting, principals from IMS and IMMS informed the board and district officials the work the team has done over the summer and during their Oct. 14 professional development day. 

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School climate teams support the improvement of individual schools’ atmosphere, policies and overall learning environment for students and teachers. Changes put forth by the climate team also assist in reducing stress.

IMS Principal Nicole Moore said the school started “We are Family” on Fridays, where she begins the day by playing the song of the same name by Sister Sledge over the loudspeaker, followed by a student introducing and sharing information about himself or herself during the morning announcements. 

Additionally, Moore has a staff member do a 30-second spot on the announcements where they talk about who they are and what they do for the school. 

“The kids really like it and they always like matching a name to a face,” she said. 

Moore added during the school’s Oct. 14 professional development day, they did a family activity in which administrators and teachers were tasked to arrive in an outfit that has a specific color, and they’d gain points for the most items in the color.

“My team had red, and if anyone who knows anything about me, I have tons of red,” she said. “I have red everything and my sorority’s color was red. I have anything and everything red.”

She poked fun at those who wore other colors — orange, yellow, blue, etc. — and ended with the staff getting together for a group picture to show off their rainbow of outfits. 

IMMS Principal Tim Carroll met with the climate team for his school to revise the student handbook in an effort to update old rules or add in new rules. Carroll is pleased he hasn’t heard of complaints from many parents, students or teachers about the new rules in place. 

“I was only yelled at by one parent out of 360 who told me that I was ridiculous, and I told him that’s great, if your child doesn’t have a clear water bottle then they can’t bring it to the classroom,” he said.

The clear water bottle policy, he went on to clarify, is in place so students are only carrying water in bottles so in the event of a spillage, there isn’t an issue in cleaning up sticky beverages such as sodas, Gatorades, etc. 

Students and teachers, he added, were grilled on the new policies so they know them and can follow them without an issue. He said he’s only written up five students, overall, for policy violations, of which none were for cell phone use. 

“We have a new policy for passes, which we’re altering a little bit,” Carroll said. “There’s never a student in the hallways without a pass. The whole thing about that is because students want to roam around.”

He added he and the climate team are working on a new hall pass system for the faculty to issue color-coded passes that physically clip onto students’ shirts, displaying where they’re coming from and where they’re going. The change helps to alleviate the need for “killing trees” and interrupting instruction after teachers, he learned, were writing roughly 30 passes per day. 

Director of Pupil Service Sandy Thurston said the district is actively working with students and families who’ve been involved in traumatic experiences. She said she recently attended a symposium that discussed how police departments can notify districts about students who were present during arrests or search warrants 

“They discussed the best ways to communicate that with the schools so that the schools are aware of what’s going on before that kid walks into school the next day,” she added. 

The state, she added, is in phase one of implementing a similar program to familiarize school district personnel with police protocols. The second phase is to create a tracking protocol where a district or school employee is immediately notified of an incident, by the police, before the child comes to school the next school day. 

“Tim [Carroll] just went out with a staff member for a student for a school avoidance situation,” she said. “My social worker has already been out this year and there’s some pretty significant events that our kids are dealing with.”

She added the home visits are another facet of the district doing community outreach to ensure the safety of students. 

“I wanted to highlight the flipside of that and what we’re willing to do to make connections with families, so we know what our students are going through in some of these aversive experiences,” she said. 

In other news: 

  • The district’s snapshot was taken on Oct. 15, which counts for all students enrolled in the district. Additionally, the budget was opened for Business Administrator Laura Archer to review ahead of the 2020 budget season. 
  • The Shamong Home and School Association raised around $4,000 from the “Taste of Shamong” event in early September. 
  • Student board of education representatives from IMS, IMMS and Seneca High School were sworn in to the board. They are: Sophia Fedeli of Seneca, Christian Ciliberti of IMMS and Jonathan McAveety of IMS. Zach Klym, who was not present, will be sworn in at a future meeting.
  • Nelson Vasquez, the district’s technology coordinator, said he’s added security warnings to staff emails whenever they receive an email from someone not using their address after Cherry Hill Public Schools experienced technology-related problems between Oct. 4 and 8. It was speculated Cherry Hill had a virus on their servers, however, that was not confirmed by the district.
  • Maintenance is working around the clock to make sure IMS and IMMS do not contract mold by revising cleaning schedules and keeping a steady flow of air in the warmer months. Todd Hall, director of facilities, said moisture and heat promote the growth of mold, and they’ll look to do most of the cleaning in the two weeks the district is closed for Christmas/winter break.
  • Superintendent Christine Vespe said she attended a seminar on school shootings where she and many other superintendents learned how to reach out to students to best prevent shootings from happening, and that students, themselves, can assist the best by being upstanders — a role the Lenape Regional High School District stresses to its students to stand up against bullying. 

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19, beginning at 7 p.m. at IMMS’ media center, 295 Indian Mills Road.

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