(photo courtesy of the University of Maryland)
On July 18, Karen Webber, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Education and Youth Development (EYD) program helped celebrate the launch of the Positive Schools Center (PSC) of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, an initiative funded by a multi-year grant from OSI. The Center, developed by former OSI-Baltimore EYD Director Jane Sundius and Professor Wendy Shaia of the University’s School of Social Work and currently run by Dr. Shanda Crowder, is dedicated to creating positive school climates in which students can thrive and grow, both academically and socially.
During her presentation on the need to transform school climate, Webber gave an impassioned plea, based on her lived experience as a Baltimore City principal, for making school climate a priority in education, especially in cities like Baltimore.
“In Baltimore City, where 85% of the student population is on free and reduced meals, which is an indicator of poverty, children are exposed to untold chronic stress from exposure to violence in the community, mass incarceration, and drug use, to name just a few,” she said. “The Positive Schools Center is a leader for positive school climate reform and a repository for the city and state on school climate training and best practices, and this is something we absolutely need.”
Said Crowder, “In order to build sustainable transformative school climate change, I believe that we must build schools that are trauma responsive and restorative in their approach to educating children and supporting staff and families.” To that end, PSC has engaged the Baltimore City school district in a partnership to transform school climates through various trainings. PSC is also working collaboratively with the Maryland Department of Education to promote positive school climates.
Crowder continued, “In order to see a shift in a school’s leadership, relationships, teaching and learning, safety, and environment we must change the fabric of the business of educating children. We must understand the need to build social emotional and character development so that our students and might I even say adults have the tools and personal skills to succeed.”