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Calming the school climate

Changing School Climate was the topic of discussion at a recent panel featuring Miller Photography

Changing School Climate was the topic of discussion at a recent panel featuring (from left) UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford; Principal Luis Torres of PS 55 in the Bronx; social worker Jarrod Alexander of PS 30 in Manhattan; and UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

School discipline is one of the biggest problems facing teachers, but the Positive Learning Collaborative and community learning schools are proven methods to help students cope with emotional issues, and they should be replicated citywide with proper funding from the state. That was the message from UFT President Michael Mulgrew and other educators at the Changing School Climate breakfast discussion on March 23 at union headquarters in Manhattan.

“The key to discipline is a positive school culture,” Mulgrew said.

About 60 educators heard Mulgrew and UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Karen Alford discuss what works with Principal Luis Torres of PS 55 in Claremont Village in the Bronx and social worker Jarrod Alexander of PS 30 in East Harlem.

Torres said the Positive Learning Collaborative has taught his teachers to de-escalate situations in which students are on the verge of acting out. Safety incidents at his school are down from 278 in 2014 to 60 today, he said.

Alexander said his work at PS 30, a community learning school, is greatly enhanced by the school’s relationship with a neighborhood clinic. “Our biggest success is the detective work of figuring out ‘Why is this child acting out?’” he said. Sometimes a “problem” child is classified as special needs, when all he or she needs is help coping with personal or family trauma, he said.

Mulgrew said both the Community Learning Schools Initiative and the Positive Learning Collaborative help schools identify students who need deeper intervention.

“When our children are in crisis, we have to meet their emotional needs,” said Alford.

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