School counselors that are also trainers in Restorative Practices are sharing their knowledge and experience of Restorative Practices with CCSD staff across the District and schools are welcoming the innovative approach.
Two years ago, the Cobb County School District (CCSD) used grant funding to train 10 district personnel as Licensed Trainers for the 2-day restorative practices training titled, “Introduction to Restorative Practices/Using Circles Effectively.” These trainers are working hard to expand the use of restorative practices throughout the district. Dr. Patti Agatston, Cobb County School District Crisis Coordinator, shared that approximately 350 CCSD staff members have attended the full 2-day training on Restorative Practices, and many local schools have hosted presentations on Restorative Practices as well. In addition, there is another training for administrators and related staff on facilitating restorative conferences when harm doing has occurred.
Restorative practices is an approach for educators that proactively builds positive school communities while reducing discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. The training covers the spectrum of restorative practices techniques, such as affective statements, restorative questions, and the use of circles. It explains how and why the processes work and gives participants opportunities to practice right away. The aim of restorative practices is to develop community and to manage conflict and tensions, by repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Smyrna Elementary School Counselor, Beth Parker, trained the staff of Russell Elementary School before school started in July. Dr. Agatston and Kim Evans, school social worker, assisted her with the presentation. Russell is the first school in CCSD to have their entire faculty participate in the full 2-day restorative practices training. Ms. Parker shared that the response from the staff during the training was very encouraging and they were excited to implement what they were learning. She added that the effort to have all teachers trained on restorative practices was led by their Principal, Ms. Tammy Watson, and she was impressed by her level of support for the training and interventions. Additionally, Ms. Evans and Dr. Agatston returned to Russell to deliver an hour-long training for parents on restorative practices.
Dowell Elementary School is now in its third year of school-wide Restorative Circles/Morning Meetings. Dr. Agatston trained Dowell’s staff on Restorative Practices and Circles in an abbreviated presentation lasting two hours. Interest in Restorative Practices was spearheaded by former Dowell Assistant Principal, Maxine Miller, who is now at Riverside Intermediate School. As a result of Ms. Miller’s interest and Dowell Principal, Christine Dinizio’s support both counselors, Kelli Beechler and Jeri Bryant, were trained in Restorative Practices and Circles, as well as Restorative Conferences. Ms. Miller, Ms. Beechler and Ms. Bryant went on to become three of the licensed trainers in Restorative Practices and Circles. Ms. Beechler has provided weekly morning meeting lessons for the staff at Dowell. The restorative practices team from Dowell presented on their implementation of Restorative Practices and Circles at the 2018 Georgia School Counselor Association Conference and have been accepted to present again this year at the 2019 annual conference.
Other schools including Lovinggood Middle School, Pope High School, and Smyrna Elementary School, are using restorative practices. Ryan Tolbert-Jackson, school counselor at Cooper Middle School, and Ali McCown, school counselor at Compton Elementary School, are both also licensed trainers and are available to assist with local school trainings.
Alexandra Huguelet and Dr. Patti Agatston