This article is the third in a series to provide the Milton community with an understanding of ‘The What’, ‘The Why’ and ‘The How’ for the MTSD implementation of Restorative Practices.

In accordance with our SOAR Vision of Learning work and the MTSD Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP), we have made a district commitment to Restorative Practices. Currently, the MTSD has three overarching CIP goals:

Student Achievement — improving outcomes through effective multi-tiered supports

Social Emotional Health — effectively addressing and monitoring student needs

Culture and Climate — creating a safe, supportive and inclusive school community for all

Restorative Practices can be understood as a foundation for supporting each of these goals; however, implementation will take time. In order for us to be successful, we will use a 3-pronged approach that simultaneously addresses Policy, Practice and Community Engagement.

The district has formed a Restorative Approaches Committee (RAC), inclusive of administrators and staff from each school along with several high school students. This group is responsible for setting the direction and drafting a comprehensive, multi-year RP implementation plan. In year one, our goals focus on practice and community engagement:

Professional training — Tier I Circles and embedding these circles with fidelity and confidence into our practice,

Community engagement — The What and Why of Restorative Practices,

Professional learning — The core Restorative Practices concepts in education.

Currently we are receiving targeted professional development and implementation consultation in two distinct ways. First, through school improvement funds, we are receiving consultation and coaching from three coordinated agencies — the Restorative Justice Centers of Essex and Franklin/Grand Isle as well as from True Nature Teaching. We have a district coordinator who is partnering with our Director Curriculum and RAC committee to plan community engagement activities and identify the work in each school. In turn, RP coaches will work with school principals and RAC representatives to carry out on-site training as well as in-service professional development.

Additionally, we are 1 of 3 SD/SUs that are recipients of a grant from the VT Agency of Education. The RP Grant was the result of several legislative hearings where experts in the field, alongside educators and students spoke to the need for the restorative approach in addressing not only issues of equity in schools but the need to develop learning environments where everyone experiences safety, respect, belonging, voice and accountability. Being a member of this elite cohort provides our team with an opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills of restorative practices. It also affords us time to network with two other districts embedded in the work. Lastly, it is facilitating a research-based, evaluation process with each of the participating districts. The goals of the evaluation are to measure the effectiveness of equipping school personnel with the information they need to enhance their implementation of RP and to ensure that schools feel supported to continue this work beyond the life of the grant.

If you are interested in learning more about ‘the what’ of RP, an excellent resource is The Whole-School Restorative Approach Resource Guide located on the Vermont Agency of Education website — education.vermont.gov