Meeting Students' Needs

This past July, while students and staff enjoyed their summer vacation, a dedicated committee was formed within the Batavia City School District (BCSD). Made up of members of the administration, faculty, parents, and even students, the committee met over several days with a mission: to identify the best ways to support the academic, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students.

Dr. Teresa Lawrence, a frequent BCSD collaborator with 26 years of educational experience in Western New York, expertly facilitated each meeting. She has held various teaching and leadership roles across multiple school districts, including the Catholic Diocese, Erie 1 BOCES, and others.

After three days of intense discussions, the team reached a consensus. They identified specific strategies to enhance student support and outlined the necessary tools staff would need for effective implementation.

“I am thrilled with the outcome. I was equally thrilled with our process of listening to all voices, including our parents and students,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “Everyone had an equal voice; all comments were heard, valued, and respected. I was especially pleased to hear suggestions from our student representatives. And I am appreciative of our positive working relationship with the Batavia Teachers Association.”

John Kennedy Intermediate Principal Paul Kesler was struck at how aligned each of the stakeholder groups were. “We were able to include staff, parents, and students to narrow in on ways we can help students feel connected in our schools. We honed in on how we might teach students skills to manage stress and conflict management and how we can equip staff to help our students use and apply these skills. I learned that the concerns of parents and students are very much aligned with the concerns of our staff,” said Kesler. 

“It was very helpful to have parents and students as part of the work to allow them to identify challenges and help us brainstorm all the ways we might meet those challenges,” he added.

Batavia Teachers Association President Mark Warren was proud of what the committee accomplished. “The group made recommendations to the district regarding strategies in classroom behavior management as well as student emotional regulation. This includes identifying potential benefits and addressing possible roadblocks of these recommendations,” said Warren. 

“I am hopeful that the implementation of these recommendations will help us to proactively meet students' needs so that our teachers can have more efficient use of the instructional time in the classroom,” he added. 

Megan Woodward, a parent of two students at Batavia Middle School, was impressed with the collaboration she witnessed in each meeting, “Everyone was encouraged to share, all voices were heard, and it was so valuable to have all stakeholders present (teachers, parents, students, admin, etc.) Dr. Lawrence did a fantastic job keeping us focused.”

Representing the students of BCSD, 8th grader Devin Polk was proud to be the voice of his fellow Blue Devils, “I think I played an important part in the meeting because I represented the students and what I felt all the other students needed.” 

“At the meeting, I think we accomplished our general idea of what we want to see on the average day at school. We talked about student needs and teachers' needs, and I learned what the teachers’ expectations are from other buildings. It was nice to see all the different staff positions at different schools come together and come up with ideas of how to meet student needs even though they each do completely different jobs—it was nice seeing their perspective and seeing if we can come up with similar or different ideas,” he added.

All attendees agreed that this meeting was a promising first step but also acknowledged the long road ahead for implementation, listening, and continued collaboration. “Implementing the recommendations that the committee has made will take everybody—students, parents, teachers, administration, related services, instructional support staff, etc.— moving in the same direction,” said Warren.