What improvements can be made to the Burlington School District (BSD) systems to communicate with parents and caregivers? How can the district address violence and peer-to-peer conflict in schools? These are the questions that the Burlington Youth and Family Engagement team (YFET) discussed during their fourth meeting of the year when they gathered at the Robert Miller Community & Recreation Center in the New North End. 

After playing a fun and lively game of Play-Doh Pictionary, the team participated in a Chalk Talk activity in which they looked at the notes from a listening session they conducted with BSD administrators in February. During that meeting, the administrators shared their responses to several questions about communication in the district, including, “What are some ways for the administrators of BSD to get closer to the parents and families that attend Burlington schools?” and “What is BSD doing to address language barriers, and what support services are available?” The team provided questions and feedback to the administrators’ responses and offered their ideas for how to improve communication, including a return to hosting language group nights (something that the district has done in the past), holding more community events for parents/caregivers of middle and high schoolers so that they feel welcomed, and publishing school handbooks in more languages. The team plans to present their recommendations to the administration this spring. 

The YFET also spent time during the meeting discussing the incidents of violence that have occurred this year, particularly in Burlington middle schools. Four UP youth interns from Burlington High School on the YFET facilitated a retreat for the Edmunds Middle School Restorative Practices team in February and heard about troubling incidents of peer-to-peer conflict and violence from the students. In a circle dialogue, the YFET discussed some of the possible root causes of the violence, and brainstormed ways to address it. One way that the team plans to address the concerns is to give feedback on the presentation that the district’s Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying Coordinator Teresa Giallorenzo will be giving to the middle schools in the coming weeks. Some members of the team will also deliver the workshop alongside Teresa.

The YFET will meet in April to put together a presentation of recommendations around communication for the administrative team and to celebrate their work. We appreciate the many thoughtful discussions they have engaged in all year, as well as their commitment to making their schools safer and more welcoming for all.