BELONG Partners District Model Schools Hold 2nd Annual Convening in Medford, Oregon

District Model Partner School staff and BELONG Partners staff and board at the convening in Medford, Oregon.

The BELONG Partners Model currently includes 11 schools from across 4 counties and 5 school districts in southern Oregon. This spring we co-hosted our second annual convening of twenty-five educators, representing our eight Whole School Partner schools in Medford, Oregon. They came together to collaboratively reflect on their practice, celebrate their accomplishments, and initiate plans for the 2023-2024 school year.

A Vision to Learn and Build Community

We had a vision to get our partner schools together in the same physical space to engage in thoughtful collaboration that centered around learning, and maximized working together across different schools, districts, and regional areas. Thanks to our partnership with Southern Oregon Educational Service District (SOESD) and the Southern Oregon Regional Educational Network (SOREN) we have been able to bring that idea to life. We’ve been able to hold convenings for the last two years with our District Model schools. This year felt special since due to the pandemic, it was the first opportunity to be together in person. The convening is an opportunity for the educators doing similar work in different contexts to come together and learn about the approach and implementation from each other’s experiences.

The BELONG Partners District Model is a comprehensive approach to school transformation that focuses on building capacity and sustainability within a district or region over a multi-year relationship. We partner with district-level coaches to support schools in building equitable learning communities where everyone knows they matter and belong, and can learn and thrive. Working with us, the school and district staff implement our integrated trauma-informed, culturally-responsive, restorative approach.

Educators Reflect and Plan for the Future

Throughout the day, the energy in the room had a sense of lightness, connection, and community. As the educators developed shared agreements for our time together, the group committed to two exciting actions – Dream Big and Thrive in Your Stretch Zone. These agreements reflect the tone of this school year in District Model service—educators across the region brought big, bold dreams to life in their communities by stretching themselves and engaging with students and families in new ways.

Highlights from the 22-23 school year.

This visual (left) highlights a year’s work: 88 data team meetings, 105+ classroom visits, and 385 hours of direct professional development in the region. Together the teams served 4,000 students and 420 educators. These numbers illustrate the level of impact that happens when school communities are committed to creating regional transformation.  As one educator shared, “[It is] an approach that creates a shift in how we run schools. It’s a shift in the system that takes a lot of time and effort.”

During data team reflections, another educator shared aloud their realization and appreciation that they were not alone in doing the work, including the struggles they faced throughout the year. There was a recurring theme that teams ended the year feeling positive because educators were happy with the progress they made. They are enthusiastic about seeing what’s possible with their intentional efforts to improve the experience of school for young people. One administrator shared, “This is really the first time that in May I feel excited about next school year, and not just exhausted.”

How Far We Have Come Together…and Where We are Going 

When asked about the notable shifts in schools because of our partnership, one educator said, “[Our] language has changed a lot. [We focus on] helpful rather than hurtful.” Another stated, “[We are] seeing the impact even on year one.” An administrator shared, “[Students] regulate a lot more than they used to. In the past, you could not reset students… students had the mindset that when they blew up they [were] done for the day. There is a shift now, where kids and educators see they can come back from it.” These powerful reflections helped launch visioning for the upcoming school year. The group reflected on their learnings and successes, and set intentions for their next steps as BELONG Partners District Model schools.

Throughout the convening, school teams described their school experiences for the year. Educators built relationships with one another and created a plan to connect and continue their learning. Peer learning is powerful, and the collaboration in the room was deeply felt.

We ended the day in a circle, sharing  gratitude for our time together. We all left the space inspired and committed to the work for the new school year, creating school communities where students always feel they can come back to and experience belonging, even when they make a mistake.

If you are interested in learning more about our District Model, we would love to speak with you.  Visit our District Model page for more information.