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Creating ‘Responsive Schools’

Joyce Mundy, Stetson associate professor of education

Joyce Mundy, Stetson associate professor of education, has received a three-year, $30,000 grant to help underserved populations in K-12 schools. She envisions a network of “responsive schools” that will meet the diverse needs of students and their families.

Joyce Mundy has a vision for K-12 education that pushes aside bullying and shifts traditional learning to one that melds academic success with social-emotional development.

With the help of a Nina B. Hollis Research Impact Award grant, Mundy, Ed.D., Stetson associate professor of education, is on her way to making the dream a reality.

Mundy is using the three-year, $30,000 grant to create and shape the Nina B. Hollis Center for School Leadership, to teach school leaders to look at the individual needs of the underserved population and put into place programs for long-term assistance. The center will support school principals to create a network of “responsive schools” that will meet the diverse needs of students and their families.

She’s been working with Taylor Middle-High in Pierson and New Smyrna Beach Middle to kick off what she hopes will innovate education in Volusia and across the southeastern United States, with Stetson University at the center of it. It’s all part of encouraging further restorative practices in schools, which encourages authentic problem solving, relationships and restoring a sense of community.

“I believe firmly the missing piece in changing the mindset has been that we tell teachers to implement a lot of things but we need to support principals in leading change to transform culture,” she said.

Responsive education and restorative practices have received a lot of attention in education circles in the wake of increased school violence, high-stakes testing and one-size-fits-all academic standards. The goal is to study the culture at individual schools and shape programs based on distinctive traits.  Mundy said they promote an emphasis on social skills and tolerance.

Stetson professor Joyce Mundy teaches a class

Stetson professor Joyce Mundy teaches a class on a recent Saturday at the Stetson University Center at Celebration. Photo courtesy of Aubrey Medrano.

“Bullying is one part of a larger problem and that really relates to how we help students manage relationships in schools and how adults manage relationships with students in schools. That speaks to school culture. How we operate, how we relate, how we resolve conflict,” she said.

For the pilot program at the two schools, Mundy has been working with administrative teams so they can better understand cultural responsiveness and closely examine their own school dynamic cultures. Faculty task forces are creating strategic action plans for each school. By May, each school team will have in place individualized programs and teacher trainings that will be implemented over the coming years. The teams will also include parent and community outreach.

In addition, the Center for School Leadership will host its first conference in June on the DeLand campus to bring together educators to focus on culturally responsive leadership.

Bette Heins, Ph.D., director and chair of the Nina B. Hollis Institute for Educational Reform, said Stetson is positioned to be a leader in restorative practices.

“Our goal is to be the hub for the southeast region for restorative practices and shaping schools to meet the needs of all underserved students. It’s all about relationships, and that’s what the center will build,” she said.

Mundy, who came to Stetson after 25 years as a teacher, principal and school superintendent in Pennsylvania, said she’s seen the program work firsthand in schools across the nation. Research shows it decreases discipline, increases performance and helps build communities, she said. It allows school administrators and educators to guide students in a positive way.

“Giving schools the ability to be proactive instead of constantly reactive is what restorative practices are about,” she said.

-By Amy R. Connolly