Sunita Williams school/ Credit: Needham Observer

Sunita Williams Elementary School principal Kiana Brunson presented the school’s 2024 improvement plan at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.

The plan focused on helping students return to a post-pandemic learning environment, was born out of several professional development meetings last summer. Administrators, teachers and coaching staff looked at data to identify relevant trends that could inform teaching and school practices. Three key concepts emerged: collaboration, culture and community.

“We recognize that deepening faculty collaboration around instructional practices or social-emotional supports [is] going to help our students thrive,” said Brunson.

Part of the plan’s goal is to use data-driven approaches to create instructional methods, such as learning labs, for teachers. These collaborative meetings during the school day offer teachers opportunities to plan lessons together, teach them and evaluate their instructional methods. Based on the evaluation, teachers can incorporate different strategies tried in the lab into their teaching. 

When the school moved from Hillside to Sunita Williams, the administration enlisted the help of the student council to help build a school culture. The recruitment efforts of fourth and fifth grade students drew significant participation. 

“The kids are so excited to be part of it. I think we had with both grades about 80% of the students applied,” said Meg Flatley, a guidance counselor at Sunita Williams. “It was an extraordinarily difficult decision to select such a small number of kids out of that pool.”

To promote positive behavior, the administration uses restorative circles to educate students about language or behaviors that create hostile learning environments. The practice strikes a balance between exerting control over negative situations and providing support for students who are upset.

The school puts on various events for students and families that “celebrate the uniqueness of our particular school community and all the wealth of diverse populations we have,” said Brunson about fostering community.

One of these events is the Festival of Cultures, where families set up informational stations to celebrate their cultural backgrounds. Students can visit each station and get their passports stamped after learning about different parts of the world.

Brunson said student-led announcements about upcoming events, new things they’ve learned, and birthday shoutouts also help create a strong sense of community. 

Brunson emphasized that student voices are essential to the future development of the improvement plan. 

“Students are the drivers of their education that they facilitate,” said Brunson. “Teachers facilitate the learning, but students take the wheel, and I think we want to lift that up by increasing student discourse and student peer-to-peer interactions.”

 Save as PDF

Click here to go Home