Dear ACEs Community:

I'm wondering if anyone has worked ACEs-related language into a School Council School Improvement Plan? I'm on the School Council for a charter school and we're looking at improving parent engagement., in general, and as part of that I'm trying to introduce two topics:

1) ACEs and 2)Race, Class & Parent Involvement 

We have kids from 30 different communities and 1/3 of the students are Haitian. The other 2/3 are mostly but not entirely Caucasian. Anyhow, some kids take a bus, many are driven to/from by parents. The income and race of communities from sending towns varies widely and so, as a school, there's a lot of income disparity as well and differences in adverse community experiences in and out of the school. We know that all kids and families are all dealing with ACEs (the presence or absence and the challenges or protections that offers). I want to address each of these issues ACEs and the ways race/class (or race/class bias) impact parent involvement. The entire school council Principal, teachers, assistant principals, parents, and are all white, with the exception of one of the students, who is Asian (and my kid). 

To complicate matters, as someone with a high ACE score myself, I've not always been a joiner and not always willing to do the work to help a system change. I've more been the one who eye rolls, thinks the system doesn't get it, and just doesn't engage. But I have a kid in the school and schools transformed my childhood in powerful and positive ways. I know schools can be sanctuaries for kids, all kids, even when they are imperfect. I also know race issues can make school hard for kids, as can class and other issues. Anyhow, part of being part of this ACEs community has taught me that those of us who have ever felt marginalized, or not represented, whether we still do or not, are actually essential, required, and have input that is valuable - not only in speaking for ourselves but in speaking to why other people won't and don't engage for reasons that are not only lack of interest, passion or caring.  

But I'm kind of green to how schools and school councils work and in being a team player (working on it every day). I know I'll have better success if I can share some success and examples of things done well at other places, or at least being explored.  Has anyone some success in this arena or any ideas or resources or experiences to share in comments or privately? 

Here, I'm asking as Cissy who is a mother and part of a local school community in MA more than as an ACEs staff person. But, since I work here too I'll share back all I learn in a later post. I appreciate any feedback and will ask in the Parenting with ACEs and ACEs in Education Communities as well for others who might be in a similar role. 

I know others have worked with schools on other issues, regarding I.E.P's and inclusive classrooms for all learners, as parents, students, counselors, teachers etc. and I welcome all experience and expertise or ideas/suggestions. 

Thanks everyone!!

@Melissa Sadin @Emily Read Daniels @Drew Schwartz@Lara Kain (ACEs Connection Staff) @Karen Clemmer (ACEs Connection Staff) and anyone/everyone who knows about school, ACEs, inclusion, diversity and ways of making change that include parents and School Councils, please share.  

Original Post

@Cissy White  You're the best.  I love that you are so boldly putting it out there!   

To begin with, you know that your question is laden with like 10,000 $1,000,000 questions.  You may be new to this arena, but you're a quick study, so of course you have all the questions everyone in education has been grappling with for eternity:

- How to include ALL VOICES?
- How to bridge PTAs mission with the broader school community?
- How to engage parents with busy lives, distance, etc?  And for what purpose?
- How to diminish inequities potentially inherent in income, racial, cultural differences?

For starters, I think you may want to Simon Sinek this one with your fellow school council members.

WHY?  What are you wanting to accomplish and WHY?  Is your desire to share ACES information shared by a majority on the council?  If so, for what purpose?  Are you looking to have parents find one another for support with these ACES experiences?  How might it look for parents that are actively living ACES? Are you hoping to bring trauma-informed principles into the school via the parent's voice?

A lot of people are going to tell you, "do a needs assessment; survey people."  I say, slow down, titrate, give space and time, start what may be a very meaningful conversation with your fellow council members.  Truthfully, these conversations are where the healing can begin - for all.

If you have already had this conversation with your fellow council members and you are in agreement about your shared desire to bring ACES science/information to the parent community, begin with your next set of questions.  Why?  For what purpose?  What do you hope to accomplish?  What format/vehicle will most likely help you accomplish what you set out to do?  How might you spread the word?  What's your social network within the council?  Who do they know and who knows that person that might help you bring in folks on the periphery of the school's social network?

You know this stuff is my wheelhouse.  You know I am eternally indebted to you.  I will help you...whatever you decide to do with moving this forward, I am happy to be whispering in your ear or standing by your side.  

You go, girl!  Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Slow...and KEEP IT REAL!  XO, Em

I'm not an expert -- but I sat on the site council at my children's school for 4 years...

First, there is still so much ignorance about ACEs that you may need to bring the Site Council up to speed on the existence of ACEs.  Maybe bring a printed general article people can take home to digest.   Maybe a second article on trauma's impacts in school aged children/ it's effects on learning.

I would begin by explaining ACEs, then talk about how unknown ACEs impact a child's ability to focus, learn, and concentrate... how it may underlie a lot of ADD, how kids with ACEs do not feel safe, how they may be victims OR bullies.  These concerns-- learning and safety-- are central to any school's mission.  A Site Council always wants to improve outcomes like these for students.  So lay the table that way.

Then I would be prepared to offer some concrete suggestions that would be simple to incorporate to 1.  raise consciousness about ACEs among the teachers & parents, as well as  2.  ideas on what can happen in the classroom to better help kids who may be traumatized.

Cissy ... YOU are a leader in systems change ... through your writing - and so much more!! 

My personal experience is really around special education advocacy .... kind of David vs Goliath ..... each time we won, it really felt like a win for all students with learning differences! 

Professionally, through my work with Sonoma County ACEs Connection, over time (relationship building), a few internal champions emerged within the Office of Education and they brought ACEs and Trauma Informed concepts into their work.  Let me know if you'd like an e-introduction. 

Several times I was asked to speak (slides attached, use as you wish) at a school counselor meeting / at a school staff in-service / to school nurses / and eventually asked to speak at a mandatory all staff meeting just before the school year started, which given the timing and the stress those folks felt - the concepts and mindful practices really resonated.  One of the science teachers was the husband of my coworker (at the time, I did not know that!) and when he came home he told her about what he learned and how it made so much sense to him!   That was pretty nice!

Eventually .... this document was published: 
ACES Bulletin Sonoma County Office of Education  COPY ATTACHED 

From the document ...

Trauma-Informed Teaching
Knowing Our Students’ Stories and Fostering Resilience

Recent social and scientific research calls upon educators to provide students with not only academic learning, but also the social and emotional tools needed to be successful in life. We once thought subjects like math and history to be disconnected from basic social skills and emotional resilience. Now, however, science is showing that all these factors are inter-related.

Click here to read an ARTICLE  article posted on Sonoma County ACEs Connection site.

I hope this is helpful!



Thanks for the resources and your uber encouragement! I am going to follow-up with you for even more when I get brave enough to do a presentation. I find that harder in front of people I know (or my daughter knows) than in front of strangers. Anyhow, I knew you would have A LOT of experience and from many perspectives.

You are a wealth of info. and SO APPRECIATED!!!
BTW: This image from one of your slides is SO POWERFUL. I like that contrast to make the point. I've not seen the stats organized that way. 

slide 16 



Photos (1)

Yes to all of the above! What I have found to be successful in including this in the school plan or strategic plan is integrating this language into what they have already and being VERY intentional about facilitating for equity. It is important to bring everyone to the table and then use group facilitation techniques that make sure all voices are involved in the integration of this new language. You own what you create, this holds true for groups and individuals. When the group truly feels that they own the message and language of the school plan it is less likely to be a static document in a binder on a shelf. Usually without strong and purposeful facilitation power dynamics replay themselves in these meetings and the same voices are heard, and the same left out. 

Some great resources for facilitation:

As well as training opportunities in Adaptive Schools

Designing Meeting for Equity http://nationalequityproject.o...acilitating-meetings

Happy to continue the conversation! Lara


THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I appreciate the links about facilitation as well. I've been learning some from @Emily Read Daniels as well. In fact, you two should connect. I think you both might like that and are doing some parallel work on east/west coast. And are both great!

Anyhow, thank you for these resources which I'll be diving into later on. LOVE THIS COMMUNITY!

I'd not thought of the power dynamics replaying in terms of equity but it's really key as the meeting itself is often led by the principal and it's not like she's power grabbing but kind of steps into that role and all of us are less certain. I shared, AT THE LAST meeting and that before we begin we as a council might want to address/assess ourselves. We are by law supposed to be 50% parents and reflect the community we exist in and on both counts do not. I shared that the parity rule/law is because if parents aren't 50% of who is present, parents won't/don't engage and end up leaving. If parents always have a solo/lone opinion, they stop talking and if they don't have half the votes, opinions don't matter all that much anyhow.

So, how we start is crucial and why token representation doesn't work (for anyone), even if/when well-meaning (it can feel just well, mean). Anyhow, I'd never understood the painful replay part and why it can feel painful rather than productive.

Learning why school councils require 50% participation of not just the regular players and it makes sense (and it helped me understand that my vibe of either seeming silent/invisible or vocal/grumpy wasn't always so fabulous for me or others).

ANYHOW, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Always learning and quite grateful!

Hello Cissy,

Congratulations for stepping up with your daughter on the School Council!

For starters, a lot of times the way the Council works and a desire to be a team player are the ‘systemic problems’ we hear so much about and some of the highest hurdles to overcome. I encourage you to learn the School Council’s approved‘Bylaws/Rules of Order’  inside and out if you want to be fair, win some debates, and create lasting changes in school policy.

With that being said,'Robert’s Rules of Order'  is the most common parliamentary authority manual in America. It’s approved for most School Boards, City/County Commissions, and State level Councils. If approved, the Chair should always have a copy at the meeting for reference.  If they’re not approved, it’s always considered very persuasive based on fairness. You can also request a'point of order'  during the meeting.

You might want to start by locating the current edition (your library may have one) and please try to read it from cover to cover; it’s worth the extra effort!

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do some of the work [before] the other folks can see the picture in the puzzle or the puzzle in the picture, whichever the case may be.

I’ve seen way too many well intentioned people get silenced without getting a legitimate answer to their questions because there was no pending motion on the floor that has to be answered before moving on.

If you and your daughter are both voting members of the School Council, please consider getting your issues (questions) on the agenda. Then you both can alternate ‘making a motion’ and ‘seconding that motion’  so the entire Council will have to formally vote on the answer to your 'pending question’.  The outcome of the vote will then have to be published in the meeting minutes.

"A good answer always starts with a good question".

Much like the U.S. House Resolution 443 that passed recently; preliminary debates have to be won first and then we can move on to what should be done next.

For some, "They will start to see the light, only when they begin to feel the heat."

Good Luck to you and your daughter on the School Council!!!

James Gallant, Marquette County Suicide Prevention Coalition

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James GallantAlicia Doktor (ACEs Connection Staff)Lisa FrederiksenCarey S. Sipp (ACEs Connection Staff)