NIJ's CSSI Grant Research

Investigating the effectiveness of the school security climate on student connectedness and school performance


Current school safety research rarely considers the school security climate as a product of the simultaneous implementation of several school safety interventions. This is potentially problematic for our understanding of school safety, as schools seldom employ only one safety intervention. Rather, they employ several interventions simultaneously to keep their school safe. The purpose of this study is to investigate different school security climates with the aim of identifying effective climates and examining student growth within these climates. The study seeks to identify the most effective type of school security climate and measure how the school security climate affects student connectedness and ultimately student academic performance.

A cohort of high school level students within high schools in the Newark Public School District in Newark, New Jersey will be the focus of this research.

More about NIJ's Comprehensive School Safety Initiative

For more information, contact 

**This page will be updated as the study progresses.


Research Bios

Dr. Charles Auerbach

Dr. Charles Auerbach- The purpose of this project is to test how different types school safety climates impacts students. I am a full professor and Chair of Research at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work (employed since 1988), and was a Visiting Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 2005-2007.  In addition to my academic work, I have most recently been a research consultant for Long Island Jewish Medical Center (since 1999), where I developed and continue to maintain a patient information system, develop risk assessment protocols, and conduct program evaluations.  I have also been a Research Scholar at The University at Albany’s Research Foundation from 2001 to 2010. 

I was the lead evaluator for two U.S. Children’s Bureau-funded longitudinal studies on recruitment and retention of child welfare workers for the past ten years through the New York State Social Work Education. As a result of this research, I have become a leading authority in workforce issues in child welfare, cross-site evaluations, examining system change over time, and research methodology. My publications in this area are often cited. Additionally, I have conducted a number of evaluations for the Administration for Children Services (ACS), New York City's public child welfare system, which have involved both quantitative and qualitative research designs, including the conducting of focus groups.


As a statistician, I previously developed statistical software, SINGWIN (Auerbach, Schnall, & Heft-LaPorte, 2009) specifically for the evaluation of professional social work practice. The software has been published with a text entitled Evaluating Practice: Guidelines for the Accountable Professional (Bloom, Fischer, & Orme, 2009) and is used in schools of social work and in direct social work practice throughout the country.  I have recently co-developed an open-source, a software package, SSD for R, for the R statistical environment that is specifically designed to analyze single-subject data.  I believe my unique combination of educational, research methodology, and statistical analysis experience makes me a valuable asset to this project.



Dr. Matthew Cuellar- Received his MSW from The University of Alabama and his PhD from University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Cuellar's current research interests are school safety, school-based violence prevention, and school social work. His secondary research interests are advanced quantitative methods and practice and program evaluation. Dr. Cuellar has expertise teaching Research Methods, Advanced Statistical Methods, and Systematic Planning and Evaluation for Interpersonal Practice. He currently teaches Applied Methods in Social Work Research, Practice and Program Evaluation, and Applied Statistics at the doctoral level. Dr. Cuellar currently serves as the assistant director of the PhD Program in Social Welfare. Dr. Cuellar is the Principal Investigator on this $1,000,000 research project funded by the National Institute of Justice. 

Dr. Susan Mason

Dr. Susan Mason- A professor of Social Work and Sociology at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University. She is the former Editor of of the journal, Families in Society, published by the Alliance for Strong families and Communities. She has published extensively in the fields of schizophrenia, cultural diversity, health and hospital practice, and social work education. Dr. Mason has worked on multiple program evaluation projects in gerontology, schools and communities, and child welfare. Her book School -Linked Services: Promoting Equity for Children,Families and Communities was published by Columbia University Press in 2016. The book focuses on bring social and health services into the public schools to enhance student academic success. Dr. Mason has authored Community Health Care in Cuba ( 2010, Lyceum) and Diagnosis Schizophrenia (2002; 20011, Columbia). Currently, Dr. Mason is working on projects that include addressing hearing disabilities in young children, children’s rights in child welfare hearings, and understanding the dynamics of bullying in children.

In addition, Dr. Mason remains committed to social work practice and teaches a number of practice courses at Wurzweiler, including Evidence-based Mental Health Practice, the New York State curriculum that she co-authored. She serves on the Council of Social Work Education's Policy Commission, and was recently elected as a Delegate to the National Convention for NASW, New York City.

Dr Mason holds a PhD, and an MSSW from Columbia University, and a Masters in Public Administration New York University. She is also certified as a graduate of Washington Square Institute in psychoanalytic psycho therapy and is a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Mason has devoted her career to teaching and writing about helping vulnerable clients live satisfying and productive lives.


Dr. Melissa Pullman

Dr. Melissa Pullman- Graduated from Wurzweiler School of Social Work with her MSW in 2014 and Ph.D. in 2017. The area of focus for her dissertation was a quantitative study identifying factors that contribute to divorce in the Orthodox Jewish community. She currently works in both a clinical and academic setting. She is practicing CBT and mindfulness in a private practice conducting on-one therapy with adults presenting with diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, and relationship difficulties. She is also an adjunct professor teaching Masters level statistics and research at Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Dr. Pullman has previous been involved in researching relationship and dating difficulties within the Jewish community. She led seminars to mental health professionals working within these communities. 

Dr. Pullman will be managing the NIJ CSSI grant by overseeing the Graduate Research Assistants, facilitating the communication with the various Newark High Schools involved, and organizing the results and data input. 

Graduate Research Assistants:

Bradley Herman is a 25 year veteran of the New York City Department of Education.  The last 8 years, he has been the building manager, and Assistant Principal of Security at a large, urban school in Brooklyn, NY.  Additionally, he is a Doctoral Student at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education.

Rain Lee is a MSW/Ph.D. candidate at Yeshiva University, Wurzweiler School of Social Work.  His research interests include understanding how social activity and perspectives about aging influence older adults.  He is also interested in end-of-life care issues, including hospice and palliative care with a specific interest in determining factors that contribute terminally ill patients to chose hospitalization over hospice or palliative care. 

Christine Vyshedsky, LMSW, graduated in 2016 with an MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University.  Her clinical practice centers on children and adolescents in trauma, and she practices in-home therapy in various counties in New Jersey.  She is an adjunct professor at Yeshiva University at Wurzweiler and is currently pursuing her PhD.  Additionally, she is the PhD Student Representative at Wurzweiler, and serves on the board of the New York State Social Work Education Association (NYSSWEA).  Her research area focuses on the relationship between bullying and mental health, with a specific interest on the interrelationship of bullying and school climate.

Viva White, MSW, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, MAC, has an AS in Human Services from Passaic County Community College, Bachelor's in Social Work from Ramapo College of New Jersey with minors in African-American Studies and Public Policy, a Master in Social Work degree from Yeshiva University- Wurzweiler School of Social Work with a concentration in Community Organization/Administration, and presently a PhD Candidate in Social Welfare from Yeshiva University- Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She has credentials as a LCSW, LCADC, CCS, and a Master Addiction Counselor. Her work experience has been in the areas of substance abuse with/without medication assistance and mental health. She is a member of the National Association of Black Social Workers- New Jersey Chapter, Treasurer; Women of Color-New Jersey; Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE), a member of the Journey for Justice Alliance; United Holy Church of America-North New Jersey Sub-district Quad Cord, Treasurer; Belmont Runyon Community School Parent-Teacher Student Association; and Community Activist. Founder/Executive Director of Balm In Gilead Community Services Inc, a Non-Profit Community Based Organization to address the behavioral health needs in communities prevalent with crime, poverty and violence.