Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline: School 17 sets positive example

February 14, 2019 07:47 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- On the heels of a distinguished educator's report showing deficiencies in the Rochester City School District, there were high marks Thursday for School 17.

The advocacy group, The Children's Agenda, says this school is an example that positive school climate is working in the district to reduce suspensions and improve a student's performance. 


This is a follow up to the 2014 Children's Agenda report looking at how to break the school-to-prison pipeline.

Some district changes, as evidenced by Enrique Fermi School 17, may show what can work.

"The before was a lot of fights and conflict in the hallway," said parent Daisy Hospedales.

That was a little more than three years ago. 

Hospedales says she never thought about sending her children to School 17, but that was before a new principal and some dramatic changes.

Now, the mother of three sings praises for the school. 

"My kids have improved a lot in performance,'" she said. "Each teacher takes her time to teach one-on-one with my children. We feel more connected as a family instead of students and teachers."

The Children's Agenda says restorative practices made the difference. It reduced the school's suspension days from 3,000 in the 2014 school year to now, 217. 

In that same time, School 17 came out of receivership and dramatically reduced its school violence index.

Eamonn Scanlon is the education policy analyst for The Children's Agenda.

"The biggest takeaway, positive school climate is working in this district," Scanlon said. "Suspensions are down...academics are up. We need to continue and deepen this work because it's been a huge positive." 

"We greet each other by face and by name and some sort of gesture," said Principal Caterina Leone-Mannino. "The kids decide what that is. We do a team building activity and we preview the day. We do a morning message. This allows for predictability. There aren't surprises. It reduces anxiety."

Restorative practices seek to build relationships and give children alternatives to suspension, like safe spaces where they can blow off steam.

Rochester School Board President Van White predicts more of this kind of success in coming years.

"The approach that was evidenced here today which was to engage the community, provide some direction to the board, we accepted that guidance and direction, we totally changed the code of conduct," White said.

"The distinguished educator recommended some changes in some areas. We came up with a very comprehensive, meaningful plan. Give us the opportunity to implement those changes. I think what you will see; some significant increases in the graduation rate, if we are allowed. When we listen, we learn," added White  

Read the full report here.


Lynette Adams

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