“We are observing considerable social emotional needs related to limited opportunities for social interaction over the last year.”
Students are struggling the most during less structured times of day such as gym or recess and need structure, support and interventions to rebuild and strengthen critical social competencies.
– Julia Bott, Principal
Ellis Mendell School
Julia Bott is in her nineteenth year in the Boston Public Schools and is deeply committed to inclusive, urban education. Currently, Julia is in her eleventh year as the principal of the Ellis Mendell School in Roxbury, a diverse, K1-5 grade elementary school. In her role as principal, she has facilitated the Mendell’s transformation to a fully inclusive elementary school, supported the development of a collaborative, professional learning community focused on academic excellence for ALL learners and the establishment of a strong, coherent and positive school climate that communicates high expectations and celebrates respect for student differences.
Julia believes strongly in fostering teacher leadership and deeply values opportunities to learn and grow with her faculty and colleagues. Prior to her leadership at the Mendell School, Julia served in various roles the Gardner Pilot Academy, including Director of Extended Services, teacher and eventually Assistant Principal for two years. Julia is a two time graduate of Boston College, receiving a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in Educational Administration, as well as a degree in Moderate Special Needs. Julia brings a passion for inclusive education and a deep commitment to strengthening her practice to better serve the diverse needs of students and families in her inclusive school community.
About the Mendell Community
The Mendell is a small (280 students), diverse, fully inclusive elementary school community located in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Our core values best encapsulate our shared vision and values: Be Inclusive, Aspire to Excellence and Take Agency. As a fully inclusive school, we are deeply committed to providing ALL students regardless of learning profile, strengths or needs, with access to a high quality, rigorous, engaging education for ALL of our learners. In order to do this, our staff are committed to embracing, honoring and affirming the rich cultural, linguistic and racial diversity of our students and families, intentionally shining the light on the legacy of strength, beauty and brilliance of their communities.
As a professional learning community, our staff work together to critically consume curriculum for forms of bias, define a clear and high standard of excellence and consistently hold ALL students accountable for realizing their full potential as intellectuals. We strive to empower students to take agency by analyzing content from all perspectives, identifying and rooting out inequities, generating counter-narratives and challenging systems and structures that perpetuate inequities in words and actions.
The Pandemic Impact on the Mendell
The pandemic has provided us with increased opportunities for unit planning and design work. We hope to continue to leverage this next year in the ways outlined below, with a focus on cultural and linguistic relevancy and antiracism.
While we have been able to focus on high quality content, we have observed considerable skill gaps as students transition back to school across all content areas (decoding and encoding, written expression and math) largely related to barriers in demonstrating understanding in the remote context. We are currently trying to leverage in person time to provide explicit standards-aligned, research-based skill instruction to close gaps and accelerate achievement. Much work is needed here, however.
As students are beginning to return to school we are observing considerable social emotional needs related to limited opportunities for social interaction over the last year. Students are struggling the most during less structured times of day such as gym or recess and need structure, support and interventions to rebuild and strengthen critical social competencies.
Many families have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic in many ways: housing stability, food security, employment and more. We have sought to restructure our support team to connect families with resources systematically to mitigate these barriers.
How will the Re-Centering Cohort help your school community?
We believe it is essential to continue on our journey as an antiracist school community. This involves ongoing work critically consuming units of study for forms of bias, diversifying content to provide mirrors and windows and building in meaningful, interdisciplinary opportunities to challenge inequities and cultivate critical consciousness. We hope to use funding to support coaching and professional development related to high quality, interdisciplinary and culturally relevant unit design.
An essential strategy in this work is implementing the science of reading K-5 to support word recognition (phonemic awareness, decoding and encoding) both in the instructional core and also as an intervention. This will require a reworking of our enrichment and intervention block to ensure we are using research based reading practices across all grade levels. This will also require intentional adjustments to the core, ensuring our core units balance language comprehension and word recognition. We hope to use finding to support PD, coaching and resources to support this shift in our knowledge and practice.
Finally, we anticipate that social emotional learning will continue to be essential in supporting students to successfully transition back to school. We want to continue to build teacher capacity around restorative justice practices. We also want to offer strategic social skills opportunities to build social competencies as well as crisis response and intervention supports as needed.