SM West junior leads effort to measure attitudes among students, teachers about what can be improved at school

Holly Jackson presented the results of the climate survey to members of the SM West faculty on Tuesday.

In her first years at SM West, junior Holly Jackson noticed that the diverse range of backgrounds among students often weren’t represented in many of the school’s activities and extracurriculars.

And she decided she wanted to do something about it.

So in May, Jackson and Janet Carter, a Spanish teacher at the school for a decade and the faculty advisor for the multi-cultural leadership club, began talking about seeing if they could measure attitudes about a range of issues at SM West — from how much students and teachers valued diversity, to whether students know about support resources available to them, to how to get more students involved in school activities.

After months of work, Jackson was able to field her survey to students and staff in April. And on Tuesday, Jackson gave an overview of the results to teachers at the school as part of a faculty meeting, a presentation that served as a kickoff for an initiative to improve school climate.

“Looking at West, I noticed that we are very culturally diverse,” Jackson told the school’s teachers. “But we are always looking to build upon the solid foundation we already have. I wanted to leave a positive impact on my school.”

The results of the survey — nearly 1,000 students and more than 70 staff members participated — brought to the fore a handful of prominent themes. Teachers felt that discipline issues were an impediment to the ideal learning environment. Students wanted to see more positive interactions between students and teachers. Both students and teachers want to see more students get involved in activities and to break out of cliques.

Based on the results, and with the support of Principal Steve Loe, the group recommended the formation of six different task forces looking at the following issues:

  • Promoting participation in activities for students from all backgrounds
  • Increasing parent/community involvement
  • Enhancing school pride
  • Continuing implementation of social-emotional learning tools
  • Improving student race relations
  • Looking at ways to improve student behavior and encouraging “self discipline”

Loe told the faculty this week that the groups will be formed this summer. Teachers will each join at least one team.

For her part, Carter said she’s been blown away by the initiative Jackson has shown with the effort.

“She’s a junior in high school and she’s already done so much — she’s definitely a future leader,” Carter said. “For her to be this focused and this concerned with improving her school at her age just speaks volumes.”