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“School climate” teacher to start 2nd semester

Published December 20, 2013

Palo Alto High School’s Education Council has voted to hire a “school climate” teacher on special assignment for the start of 2nd semester to make the culture of Paly more inviting and inclusive.

Social Studies teacher Eric Bloom will fulfill this position for two periods in addition to teaching his history classes.

“Through talking with students, student groups, parents, and faculty, I will get a feel of what’s working and what’s not working,” Bloom said. “We want to create a Climate Committee for Paly, which includes both students and staff to hear their views of what’s going on at school.”

One of Paly’s overall goals is to improve the climate on campus. This committee will help start conversations addressing concerns ranging from academic stress and teacher-student dynamics to bullying and attendance, according to Principal Kim Diorio.

Bloom leads a Western Association of Schools and Colleges curriculum focus group and is a member of the District-wide Homework Advisory Committee among others. These two commitments have already given Bloom insight into the well-being of Paly students. Bloom said he hopes build up a trust with students over the coming semester.

“I think he’s the best person for the job, because he cares about the school,” Diorio said. “He’s been here a long time. He has the relationships already with his students and with his colleagues.”

Bloom will organize a lot of the events that tie in with the goals of unifying the school and bringing Paly together to promote a community feel so kids feel connected, according to Diorio. He will work in conjunction with the Associated Student Body and other clubs on campus to look at events like Not In Our School Week and Camp Everytown.

Because the position is new, Bloom will be trying many different ways to collect evidence on which systems the school has in place are working effectively and which need to improve. After interacting with Paly members, he can act as an advocate at district meetings.

The position is currently funded for the upcoming semester, but Bloom’s work will have to show progress to justify funding for following years. Progress will be measured though student success, such as a decrease in the number of students getting D’s and F’s, an increase in kids meeting A-G requirements and positive survey results, according to Diorio.

Diorio said she believes that one of the major ways to measure success is by seeing a reversal in past attendance data, where fewer kids cut class.

“I hope to see kids coming to class, wanting to be in class, and feeling like class in important,” Diorio said. “Kids will think, ‘My teacher really cares about me; the classroom cares about me.’ Kids will start to feel like they can do this work and then start to see it in the results.”

Measuring school climate ties in with Paly’s undergoing of WASC accreditation. One of Bloom’s projects in cooperation with WASC will be to organize teacher shadowing of students to get a better of feel of what Paly students’ lives are like. Another part of this is to organize for teachers to observe other teachers.

“This is an important role,” Diorio said. “It has the potential to make a huge impact on our campus.”


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