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Improving School Climate: Staff Modeling Respectful Communication

Matt Geary, MHS Principal

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Dear Manchester High School Community,

As you know, improving school climate is one of our primary goals at Manchester High School this year and we have taken several steps to accomplish this goal. One important step is the development of a Staff Working Agreement, which I am pleased to share with you.

The Staff Working Agreement, which was recently finalized, is a document that guides how we, as adults, communicate with each other. A strong school climate starts with the atmosphere cultivated by the high school staff. This agreement allows us to model appropriate behavior for the young people in our school and is a key foundational piece for the development of a safe and respectful climate. The Staff Working Agreement represents a commitment by all staff members to listen, communicate, and act respectfully when interacting with each other.

This agreement was developed by the School Climate Committee with input gathered from all staff members through small group sessions, staff surveys, and individual conversations across the school. Here is what we created:

We, the Faculty and Staff of Manchester High School, will:

1. With an open mind and an awareness of our personal perspectives.
2. Actively, as free from distraction as possible.
3. With positive body language.
1. With a professional and respectful tone, volume and vocabulary in all forms of communication.
2. With an awareness of cultural and personal differences.
3. Collaboratively and in the best interest of students.
1. With consideration for the appropriate time and place.
2. Constructively and honestly.
3. With confidentiality regarding sensitive information.
4. Ethically, with fairness and impartiality.
5. In support of our colleagues.
6. By honoring our commitments.
7. With courtesy and acknowledgement of each other.

As I noted above, we have worked on improving the climate of our school since I arrived in April because we believe that over time, improved climate will lead to a shift in the culture of Manchester High School. In his recent blog, David Jakes wrote, “the culture of a school is represented by its shared beliefs, its ceremonies, its nuances, the traditions and the things that make the school unique. School culture takes a great deal of time to create. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over years.”

Jakes explained that every person associated with the school, including faculty, staff, parents, students, and community members, has the responsibility to contribute to the creation of a school’s culture. Each person has the responsibility to contribute to the fundamental foundation of what the school is, how it functions, how it sustains itself and how it grows. Creating a school culture is always active, always ongoing and always a conscious consideration of leadership in everything it does. It’s a choice.

Over the next few weeks we will be crafting a vision statement for Manchester High School. This Vision statement will articulate the kind of school which we aspire to be. It will drive our work together, as shareholders, to build a better Manchester High School. I look forward to sharing this vision with you – and to making it a reality together.

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