Dimmitt Middle School has been a partner of Sound Discipline for over five years, and we are excited to feature them this month as our Sound Discipline Inspiring Story. In a recent Education Week article, Arianna Prothero stated that school leadership’s most critical job “is creating a school environment where students feel safe, supported, engaged, and accepted.” Dimmitt Middle School has consistently prioritized creating this healthy school environment, and it shines through the entire school community daily.
Dimmitt is hosting a Black History Month online assembly every week in February. So far they have hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. assembly, featuring leadership from past and present students as well as school staff. Dr. King’s vision of the “Beloved Community” was manifest throughout the event, which you can view here. They have also hosted Black History in the Making – A Panel of Black Educators. This is a powerful presentation by Black educators from Renton schools and community members who discuss issues of race and identity and share their personal stories. You can view this event here.
Focusing on community and student engagement in this way has been more important than ever in the era of online learning. Knowing this, the Dimmitt Data Team, with support from Sound Discipline facilitators, decided to measure student engagement in school by administering surveys both to students and teachers. One survey result indicated that even more could be done at Dimmitt to promote community and connection in the online learning environment. This feedback led to a community building session for the entire Dimmitt staff facilitated by Sound Discipline. The school staff had the opportunity to connect more deeply online and learn tools that could be used to do the same with students. One teacher reflected that this work of community building was “important because we need our students to have a feeling of trust and safety in school… and being part of a community gives them that.” Since the training, multiple Dimmitt teachers have reported that they have used the session’s activities and tools to create greater engagement among their students.
Dimmitt Middle School has also been a host for Sound Discipline’s summer student leadership intensive, Designing Our Own Learning (DOOL), for multiple years. Dimmitt teachers and students have shared DOOL practices throughout the school community and engaged in schoolyear DOOL leadership activities. Here are some quotes from students involved in DOOL’s work of shared leadership and community building at Dimmitt:
“(What was most important to me) was building a community, because you get to know each other, and you get to feel a connection to one another. I feel more connected to the teachers and feel at the same level with the teachers, and I feel like I can say an idea and not get any judgment or get that idea shut down.”
“It is really exciting to wake up every morning and be here. knowing I am going to change my school for the better.”
The experiences of these Dimmitt students speak to an assertion Prothero makes in her Education Week article – that “positive and stable relationships among staff, students, and caregivers undergird a school’s climate. It’s vital that children feel they are known and supported in school”. The importance of these relationships is particularly true for students who have typically been underserved.
The Dimmitt Data Team has been working with Sound Discipline facilitators for years to address the disproportionality in discipline that many schools face. Years of interventions have steadily decreased the disproportionality in referrals between students at Dimmitt based on race – a huge accomplishment. As these disparities have decreased, the Data Team at Dimmitt has focused more attention on exploring disparities between students with special needs and those without. At Dimmitt, working towards equity is a core value, towards which they have made significant progress – and to which they remain deeply committed.
In Education Week, Prothero asserts that “school climate involves everyone connected to the school—students, teachers, support staff, administrators and parents.” Dimmitt leadership continues to engage the entire community surrounding the school. In addition to teachers and students, Sound Discipline has had the opportunity to support Dimmitt Classified Staff and also offer parents skills throughout the pandemic. Ultimately, it is clear that Dimmitt’s focus on a positive school climate is meeting many needs and helping to build a true community – both within and without Dimmitt’s school walls.