Karlin Tichenor '09 Leads Lansing School Office of Culture
Karlin Tichenor ’09 looks at the foundation of school culture, trying to effect positive change for students.
Tichenor leads the Lansing School District’s Office of School Culture, which is working to reduce traditional barriers to education by focusing on positive discipline and reinforcement.
In a Lansing State Journal interview, Tichenor answers questions about his background and work.
Tell me a little about yourself and your work for the Lansing School District
I received my bachelor’s degree from Denison University in 2009 in communication and psychology. After that, I began working at Michigan State University as part of a summer research project – The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program – targeting students who were first-generation college students, inviting them to do research with a mentor in one of the departments. From there, I got my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and began to connect to education-based programs and grants involving research. I then got my Ph.D. in human development and family studies, and during that time I was working for the Lansing School District developing programs that started with the behavior intervention monitor program.
What is the goal of the Office of School Culture?
(The Lansing School District) started this office in July of 2016, with the decision of the Board of Education and the superintendent to create an office focused on improving school culture while integrating mental health and other resources. In our work, we try to be more proactive around identifying practices to help schools improve their culture to create predictable and positive environments that are conducive to students.
What’s been the impact of the Office of School Culture and its focus on alternatives to traditional disciplinary practices?
We’ve seen a reduction in our expulsion rates. Attendance is up in some categories, and we’re seeing kids be more engaged in school. Staff members are also more understanding of the holistic child, who they come to school as and the challenges they have. We’ve also seen a reduction in violent and aggressive behaviors and staff and students have stronger relationships as part of our new approach to conflict resolution, though there is still more work to be done.
What ongoing efforts will make the biggest impact on student’s education in the coming years?
I think we have to target chronically absent students with focused support at certain grade levels and a coach who has expertise in truancy. We will also continue with our conflict resolution services, so we can have a more expansive approach within classrooms and hallways, responding with restorative conversations between students, staff, parents and community members. What we’re trying to really do is highlight the importance of restructuring education so social-emotional learning alongside behavior and mental health are at the forefront rather than an afterthought.