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Essay: Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Elementary school – Agency Culture, Collaborative Practice

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  • Published: 6 September 2021*
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Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Elementary school is a part of the Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD). The goals of the district include increasing “academic achievement, ensuring access and equity, improving parent and student engagement, and providing 21st Century Learning Environments” (Welcome to the Superintendent’s Dept., n.d.). Five elected members make up the Board of Trustees who establish policies to improve student achievement. Following the Superintendent of LESD who supervises school principals and district staff. LESD has three secondary superintendents. Deputy Superintendent Business Services who oversees the directors for Accounting, Purchasing, Maintenance and Operations, Food Services, an Information Technology. The second branch is the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. This position manages the directors for State Preschool, State and Federal Projects, Teaching and Learning, Special Education, and the Technology Learning Coordinator. Lastly, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources oversees the RAP Director and the Student Support Services Director. The Student Support Services Director is the head for the District Social Worker, eight School Site Social Workers, 45-60 Counseling, MFT, Social Work Interns, two School Nurses, and Medi-Cal Outreach Specialist who leads eight Community Liaisons.
The Principal at FDR represents and leads the school by meeting with teachers, students and parents; they handle any issues or emergencies that arise in the school. The Assistant Principal is the next in line; this person also has a leadership position similar to the principal’s role. The assistant principal at FDR also handles some of the disciplinary issues with students. The office staff is made up of an office clerk, office manager, and office clerk and attendance. There is also one community liaison placed at FDR; this person assists personnel is working with parents, students, and community agencies. There is also a health clerk to serve students. Support staff includes a computer technician, two speech therapists, a school psychologist, English Learner Instructional Resource Teacher (ELIRT), Math Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). Within the school, there are four teachers for each grade level from kindergarten to third grade. There is one TK teacher and three teachers for fourth grade and three teachers for fifth grade. There are two Life Skills teachers; one at first-grade level and the other at the third-grade level. There are 7-noon duty aides who help with watching over students during recess. There is a library media clerk, instructional aides who assist in classrooms, and two custodians. There is a Reaching Amazing Potential (RAP) program supervisor who oversees staff at FDR for the before and after school program. There are Adapted PE Specialists who are employed through The Creating Opportunities for Physical Activity (COPA).
Agency Culture
Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary promotes a positive culture of its staff, students, and families. Culture is defined by how individuals within an organization share similar ways of thinking and values (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2016). One of the first factors that contribute to FDR’s positive culture is the collaboration and teamwork within the school organization. Michael Williamson (pseudo name) was asked during the interview what his experience has been like at FDR. Previously, he was placed in the school with Reading Partners and was a part of it for about three years; currently, he is a social work intern for the school. Mr. Williamson stated that his experience has been overall enjoyable and eye-opening. He feels fortunate to be able to serve in a community meanwhile learn how to best support students. When it comes to working with staff, Mr. Williamson said most have been supportive and friendly although it has changed since having a new position in the school. He further explained that in Reading Partners, teachers felt they were working together on a common goal to improve student’s reading levels; as a social work intern, teachers have become more apprehensive about removing students from class time. A study conducted to understand barriers to the practice of school social work, found that collaboration with teachers and staff was most effective for the social work practice (Teasley, Canfield, Archuleta, Crutchfield, & Chavis, 2012). Internal collaboration can vary within the agency. Some staff may be more welcoming to certain programs versus others, and because schools are host settings for social workers, staff may not be knowledgeable of the field. Although the school can share a similar goal and mission, members can have different values.
Another factor that contributes to FDR’s culture is working towards fulfilling FDR’s purpose and mission of the academic achievement of all its students. Alvesson and Sveninsson mention that culture guides behavior. They further state that commonality is necessary for the organization to continue functioning (2016). Mr. Williamson mentioned that FDR has an ambiance or feeling of support. He also stated that the school has a strong expectation for the students to succeed academically, but the school tries to provide students and parents with the tools in order to be successful. Mr. Williamson provided examples of some of these tools such as Reading Partners, a program that provides individual reading support to students. Parents are given the opportunity to be a part of councils, volunteer at their school, and are invited to participate in Family University. FDR’s mission statement provides the school with the guidelines to have a positive and respectful school culture.
One of the most important factors that provide a strong culture not only in FDR but district-wide is striving to improve. Tying it back to Alvesson and Sveninsson’s idea that culture guides behavior (2016), in recent years, FDR has implemented a socio-emotional curriculum to its student’s education. Socio-emotional learning is applied through Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and the Second STEP program. PBIS is a multi-tiered approach that provides social, emotional, and behavior supports that teaching appropriate behavior to all students, targeted student support and individual support. These tiers consist of having positive behavioral expectations for its students. According to Mr. Williamson, at FDR, all teachers and staff are actively reinforcing PBIS and thus creating a positive climate. With fewer behavioral issues, negative interventions such as suspensions or expulsions have reduced, and teachers and staff have been able to focus on academics. Through the Second STEP, teachers are provided with a new curriculum to teacher socio-emotional learning. As an agency, FDR is about improving in other areas as well; they provide other resources and programs for parents.
Services Meeting Family Needs
FDR does excellent work in meeting the needs of families in their community through many ways. Some of the ways include the resources and staff available within the school for students and for their families. Schools are a great resource because this is a place where teachers, staff, families, and other professionals such as the ones the mental health field, can work together (Sosa, Cox, & Alvarez, 2016). FDR attempts to fulfill the biopsychosocial needs of its families through on-site health and mental health services, and services such as free lunch and before and after-school programs.
As noted before, FDR has staff available that are greatly capable of directly helping students. By having health clerks on campus, students can receive basic first aid. They perform a variety of duties including administering prescribed medication and assist with student’s personal hygiene. They communicate with parents regarding health records and arrange vision, hearing, and dental screenings. Having health clerks on campus are necessary because they can help children feel better when they experience minor illnesses or injuries and promote the importance of health to the school and their families. Another important staff member is the school psychologist. They conduct psychological assessments to referred students, provides psychoeducation and counseling to students with problems impacting their educational performance. This position is an excellent example of service to students and parents, but to staff as well. They provide consultation and training to administrators and teachers on how to better assist their students. LESD provides each of its schools with a school social worker. They serve essential functions including psychological assessment and direct mental health services to students through individual or group therapy. They address students with behavioral, emotional, or social problems that can impede learning. Social workers provide classroom support through observations, consultations, and intervention strategies for teachers. Aside from behavioral management, the school social worker delivers staff development to understand the psychosocial needs of students better. They coordinate with community agencies and refer families to resources available within their communities.
Throughout Lawndale Elementary School District, they offer programs to aid students and families. Two of these programs are free lunches and an afterschool program. All schools under this district offer free lunch for their students. Provision 2 was introduced for the 2018-2019 school year allowing all students to qualify to receive a free breakfast and lunch, and it is not dependent on household income. School lunches can be critical to students, especially low-income students. Free school lunch can provide a nutritious meal which can aid children to be ready to learn throughout the day. Reaching Amazing Potential (RAP) is a before and after school program offered at FDR. RAP provides students with assistance with homework, leadership activities, and other academic enrichment activities. Aside from aiding with student educational needs, RAP can assist working parents. The majority of FDR students come from low-income households. By having RAP, parents who work early in the morning can drop off their student as 6:45 a.m. or have them stay late in the afternoon until 6:00 p.m.; parents can keep their children in a safe learning environment until they can go home for the day.
A recent program established at FDR is Trajectory of Hope. This is an educational organization supporting schools by addressing discipline outcomes for African American students. Their goal is to engage with families, teachers, and students in order for them to learn more about the school community. The consists of providing group sessions for students and larger monthly group sessions for teachers and parents to learn more on how to help African American students succeed through hope. These are just three examples of how FDR is fulfilling its mission. Being that the agency is a school, its ultimate goal is the academic success of all of its students. In order to do this, the school has staff and programs implemented to support staff, families, and student. By minimizing the obstacles that a parent or child might face, the students are more empowered to succeed.
Collaborative Practice
Strong collaboration practice with outside agencies. These agencies come together to help address the issues going on within the community. Bin Chen presents in his article the idea of collaborative processes that include five process variables that affect interagency collaboration (2010). These five variables can be demonstrated in the collaboration of FDR and Trajectory of Hope as an example of collaborative practice conducted at this school. The process of joint decision making is essential because the two agencies plan and set goals towards what they hope to accomplish (Chen, 2010). Trajectory of Hope is working with FDR to address the issues of that African American students are facing. The process of joint operation is specifying the roles and responsibilities of each agency (Chen, 2010). A simple example of this is the role each agency does. Trajectory of Hope provides the lessons that a small group of students and parents and teachers will receive; FDR has had the task of reaching out to families for the program. FDR and Trajectory of Hope follow the process of sharing resources. Trajectory of Hope provides the program they implement, and FDR contribution includes providing Trajectory of Hope with a location for this service. Finally, the last two processes Chen mentions is the process of building trust and the process of compromising autonomy. Two agencies share a vision. In order to fulfill the vision, the two agencies must have a relationship built on trust and also have boundary settings. Even if two agencies share the same vision, if one agency is not contributing, then the other will less likely be willing to commit its time and resources (Chen, 2010).
FDR demonstrates the capacity to work at multilevel collaboration. Collaboration among individuals in an agency is one of the first steps in collaborative relationships when it comes to community organizations and agencies (D’Agostino, 2013). D’Agostino further explains the significance of multilevel collaboration and the importance of contributions from all team members (2013). FDR has established relationships within the school but also has robust partnerships with outside agencies.
Although Lawndale Elementary School District and Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary have great established collaborations, agencies at times still face challenges when it comes to collaboration. At time agencies can be faced with dilemmas, tensions or conflicts for partnership members. This tension can have a significant effect on the culture and environment of an agency or a school. A challenge that FDR sometimes faces is partnering with programs that sometimes are not effective because of the undertrained staff. Mr. Williamson recalls of a program that when promoting it to the school, seemed great and very useful. The school district believed that by investing in this program, they were going to be working with the person doing the presentation; however, this was not the case. Instead, the agency sent another member to implement the program at the school. Although the employee and program work fine, Mr. Williamson believes the program would have been more successful if the person working, was more motivated or received more training. Due to this, several children are not enjoying participating in the program. Some staff at FDR would like to employ other personnel of the program that would be more equipped with working with their students.
Before LESD partnered with The Creating Opportunities for Physical Activity (COPA) Program, LESD had their middle school physical education teachers rotating their schedules to FDR. This system was not adequate for a couple of reasons. The physical education teachers soon grew frustrated with traveling and rotating school to school. Because of the rotating teachers and lack of time spent with FDR students alone, building rapport was difficult for the teachers and students. LESD decided to partner with COPA and feel that this program has been more effective in providing physical education to its students district-wide. This is one of the challenges the school district was able to find a solution. They solved their problem by connecting with an agency that could better provide services to its elementary schools. Now FDR has consistent physical education teachers that lead, and students enjoy.
When interviewing Mr. Williamson, he struggled to find challenges that FDR faced and was able to the two challenges mentioned above. When asked what solutions could be used to address the challenges faced, he mentioned it would be great to hire people who are motivated in doing what they do. Mr. Williamson believes LESD and FDR have strong connections with outside agencies. They partner with agencies that provide mental health services to students when the school social worker feels it is out of a school’s scope to address an issue. There are service agencies that provide free shoes to students or screen children’s vision and provide them with reading glasses. Another major partnership is Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance; this is a mobile center that stations itself at LESD’s schools to provide health clinic access to low-income families in the community. An area that Mr. Williamson believes needs more growth at FDR is bringing more resources to increase educational partnerships. Currently, the only educational partnership is Reading Partners. By providing students with resources that include mentoring or tutoring could improve academic achievement.

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