You may have noticed that school’s in recess for the summer, but many aspects of any school district’s work go on year round, including the school board. We’ll take a closer look over the summer months at some of the key items on the board’s agenda, starting with the June 4 meeting:

The DMPS School Board operates in accordance with an organizational model called Policy Governance, a system of protocols that defines and guides relationships between an organization’s owners/stakeholders, its board of directors and its chief executive.

One element of PG is a series of Management Limitations that draw boundaries and impose accountability standards on an organization’s CEO, or, in the case of a school district, the superintendent.

Recently, the board took the first step to adopt a new one: ML 2.10: Social and Emotional Learning.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is defined as the process through which children (and adults) understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Tuesday’s regular meeting of the school board included a preliminary report on the topic.

“I’m excited that we’ve added this and are having this conversation that will lead to policy and deliverables for our community,” said Board Vice-Chair Kyrstin Delagardelle at the meeting. “I feel like one of the major topics in our state has been mental health…for kids.”

Board member Dionna Langford feels the new priority reflects the board’s sensitivity to community concerns.

“We took the feedback the community gave at all of the sessions and were really thoughtful about developing goals and policy that align with that,” Langford said.

Kelly Schofield is the DMPS Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning. She and Jake Troja, the district’s Director of School Climate Transformation, are jointly leading a task force that will formulate the district’s action plan for SEL.

“Being proactive and working to grow student and adult social emotional competencies will impact behavior,” she said. “The task force is made up of administrators, teachers, support staff and counselors. We are adding parents, students and community members as well.”

Schofield said the task force’s work will align with principles developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and adopted by the State of Iowa. Monthly meetings will concentrate on promulgating and implementing a “screener” tool for use next year in buildings districtwide. District leaders will take part in some training exercises later this month, too.

SEL is an approach earning national recognition and support among educators and policy makers alike. For example, when Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio – one of the many presidential hopefuls for 2020 – visited Des Moines in early April, he spent time at Callanan Middle School to learn more about some of the preliminary SEL-related efforts that were underway.

SEL is another in a long series of responsibilities added to the role of public schools, which once were charged almost exclusively with teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.

It’s no wonder the work continues year round, whether or not classes are in session and sufficient funding is available.

More information about all things DMPS School Board can always be found on our web site.

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