Sharon City School District’s Forum team focuses cultural changes 

A small group of students working with Sharon City School District’s Forum team last spring raised concerns about school safety and about their sense that students didn’t feel a strong connection with staff.

The concerns prompted the team to conduct a survey of the student body to determine how widespread the feelings might be. The intent was to gather data for changes that might improve overall school culture. sharon-city

Team-building activities that have been incorporated across grade levels already have brought about an uptick in communication between staff and students, according to Sharon City’s Forum participants.

Among other changes, the data also suggested that a bullying prevention program and a concerted effort to embed “integrity” through everyday actions represented good early steps.

Since then, Sharon City has become part of a Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) initiative that will broaden findings about cultural markers and do so across all stakeholders.

“We’re a pilot school in an initiative on school climate,” explained Dawn Blair, an Assistant Principal in the district and a Forum team member.

As part of it, the district is surveying parents and staff as well as students and using PDE’s more detailed questionnaire, giving the Forum team a larger data set, which will help create a needs assessment.

The district, in turn, will incorporate the information into its strategic plan.

Among other things, the PDE survey poses questions designed to gauge staff and student morale and any trends that may emerge across the different groups of stakeholders, Blair said.

PDE is hoping that the data will enable districts participating in the initiative to make positive changes, Blair added. “They want to look at whether change in climate can have an effect,” particularly on indicators of school safety, such as disciplinary referrals.

The Forum team is hoping to use survey findings to help “bring about a sense of community between student and teacher,” Blair said. “We want to make students more comfortable going to teachers if they have problems.”