Sumner works to be positive

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Students and parents in Austin Public Schools all know the Character Counts education program well. Throughout the district, the six “pillars” of good character — Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship — are a constant reminder of how behavior is just as important as academics.

At Sumner Elementary, staff participate in a program that ensures everyone is “on the same page” about promoting a positive atmosphere within the school, said Melissa Trdvik, school psychologist.

Made possible by a grant from the State of Minnesota, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a program in which school social workers, teachers, the special education coordinator and principal Edwina Harder work on the “climate” within the building and identifying students who struggle with behavioral problems.

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PBIS members have just completed training for the program.

“We are pretty much on our own now,” Trdvik said.

The group is split into a “climate team” and “systems team.”

Members of the climate team work to instill a positive attitude in students and staff, even planning treats and games for staff.

The systems team tackles each grade by meeting with teachers to come up with behavioral interventions with students.

Students who have been identified as needing behavioral interventions are given a “check-in, check-out” list to gauge behavior throughout the day. They also meet with an adult in the morning and afternoon “just to have a positive interaction and praise for having a good day,” Trdvik said.

“Teachers are good at contacting parents at home,” she said.

Assemblies are held where students are honored for good behavior. Students are awarded “pillar cards” when staff witness good behavior; those students are then entered into a drawing to be recognized at the assemblies.

“Every child has a chance to win a pillar card, just by following the rules,” Trdvik said.

Parents are also invited to see their children’s recognition during the assemblies.

Staff put on a “Sumner Idol” program, where students watch as their teachers and other staff perform skits before “Idol” judges.

Posters throughout the building remind students of the various kinds of behavior required in that area. For instance, in the hallways, playground and library, you must “Keep your eyes on the line leader,” use “quiet voices and bodies” and “walk safely on stairs.”

“It’s all about the climate,” Trdvik said.

“We want to be giving students more positive feedback than negative feedback. If the schools don’t have the behavioral things under control, the more academics will fail.”