SPARTA, NJ – As the name explains, the Sparta Commitment to Culture and Climate* or C3, looks beyond the reading, writing and arithmetic, seeking to support the overall health and wellness of the students and staff in Sparta’s schools.
At the board of education meeting on Thursday, Brown presented the group’s work from its inaugural year.
Saskia Brown, Supervisor of Pupil Services has led the committee of staff, parents and community members since beginning in November during the 2019-2020 school year. The committee of 86 met five times while school was in session and during the shut-down.
The committee was formed to respond to Domaine #3 "Health and Wellness" from the district’s strategic plan. The group broke into three groups initially and added a fourth recently.
- Social and Emotional Learning,
- Mental and Physical Health,
- Staff Wellness and Morale
- Racial Injustice Taskforce- recently added
The meetings this school year established the framework for the committee; the name and logo, the goals, the mission, the role of committee members, some ground rules and the subcommittees and how each topic would be addressed. Each subgroup worked on assessing what the district currently offers as it pertains to their focus area.
The committee is pulling resources from local Sparta groups as well as statewide initiatives.
In Sparta the committee will use input from the more than 400 alumni who participated in a focus group on June 11, 2020 as well as the newly formed Sparta High School “We are the Dream” club of more than 70 students Brown said.
The We are the Dream club was made official at the Thursday board of education meeting. They had two focus group meetings on June 3 and June 9, 2020. From this group, students organized the March for Black Lives on June 20, 2020.
As the board of education meeting progressed, Brown addressed the members about a message she had received from a teacher after giving her presentation earlier that evening. She said the teacher had alerted her that someone had posted a comment saying Brown had taken credit for having created the We are the Dream club.
Brown was adamant that she and Principal Ronnie Spring had supported the students who ran the two focus groups and sought to have to club earn official status.
History and World Language Supervisor Scott Kurcher helped to organize the Sparta Diversity Council which co-hosted four family forums on June 4 and a staff forum on June 10. Kurcher presented the initiative at the board of education meeting as well. Kurcher's presentation will be covered in a subsequent article.
Brown said the Sparta C3 committee has partnered with the Culture and Climate Initiative from the College of St. Elizabeth. This brings Sparta in contact with a network of other schools in the state working on the same topics and issues.
At the last in-person C3 committee meeting Brown announced to the group the district would be receiving a grant from Rutgers to help specifically with the Mental and Physical Health topic. This links Sparta with the Rutgers University Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network. Their efforts are funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The Rutgers partnership would help survey the resources Sparta currently provides as well as gain an understanding of gaps in services. It will help to plan and implement services for the students, staff and families of the district.
In her presentation Brown said the C3 Committee will also be making use of county and state resources including the Sussex County Child Health Crisis’ “Health and Wellness Resource Guide” and the New Jersey Governor’s Mental Health Taskforce through the New Jersey Department of Education’s “School Based Mental Health Guide.”
For the summer, to “continue the conversation,” Brown offered a book club for the committee members and community to consider. The book she selected is “How to Become an Antiracist” by Ibram Kendi. At the board of education meeting Brown said the summer club already had 34 members and was due to begin July 6.
Brown closed her remarks sharing information about a community forum held on June 18; “Rewriting the Narrative: A Virtual Panel Discussion on Racial Trauma.” Brown said 173 people attended the discussion that included Howard Stevenson and Broderick Sawyer along with Sparta High School student and We are the Dream founding member Maia Albuquerque.
*Editor's note: Jennifer Dericks is a member of the Sparta C3 committee