VANDALIA — Putting a multi-year, district-wide program aimed at improving behaviors and attitudes in place can be a big challenge. But Morton Middle School staff and administrators are celebrating the successful start of the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, or PBIS, program, and looking forward to phase two.
The Morton team and the team at Helke Elementary School are receiving Bronze Level Awards from the Midwest PBIS Network, for their achievement bringing PBIS to the students at their schools. Bronze Awards are given to schools that show a successful implementation of the first phase of the program.
“We were hoping to achieve [the award] because it is basically saying that the school has implemented the first phase of PBIS effectively. We felt like we had put a lot of time and effort into making that happen. Most importantly, the staff was on board after seeing positive changes in the overall environment and feel of the building,” Morton Principal Shannon White said.
“We were excited to find out about winning our Bronze Award. It was nice to know that our hard work and dedication to our students was recognized in this way,” Helke Principal Brian Tregoning said.
White says she knows some students enter middle school without having all of the proper social skills and knowledge of how to behave in some situations. PBIS offers consistent expectations and terminology for students and staff. Team members say it’s the consistency that makes the program beneficial.
“The whole PBIS program gives us a consistent structure across the school and across the district. All students are held to the same expectations. It really provides consistency across the board,” Morton PBIS team member Leslie Roderick said.
As the name implies, the program focuses on rewarding students who are doing the right things, but there are still real consequences for those students who misbehave. Students receive a flight pass and can earn signatures from staff members when they are demonstrating good behaviors like the “three R’s,” being respectful, responsible and resourceful.
This year at Morton, students can trade in their signatures for a host of items or activities, including candy, extra technology time, a Dairy Queen blizzard and even lunch from Principal White. Students helped create the Flight Pass Signature Menu to motivate others to do their best.
“It’s neat to hear them talking about who is cashing in their signatures for something now and who is going to save them for one of the big items,” Morton team member Susan Pulliam said.
While the menu may help with the motivation, team members know there’s more involved in making the program a success. The middle school also started an advisory program last year, where 15 students are grouped and share an advisor for their three years at Morton. The goal is for the advisor to be the “go to person” for those students and for the group to bond.
While team members say it will take two to three school years before students really understand the whole program, they are already seeing a difference.
“I’ve seen the most change with how students interact with each other, more respect, compassion and thinking of others first,” Roderick said.
Activities like lining up to go to lunch and moving through the hallways have also become easier with students understanding what is expected of them in these situations.
“I think it’s really cool that it’s working this well in a middle school. Hopefully, it’s becoming a habit,” Morton counselor Megan Reinhart said.
Now, it’s time to move to phase two of the PBIS program. These staff members say they are ready and willing for the next challenges.
“We have begun intense work with Tier 2 now, focusing on what works with that next level of students. We continue to build upon what we have already done with Tier 1, making changes based on last year and what worked and what didn’t,” White said.
“This year, we will continue what was put into place last year and work to build upon that by providing more-focused services to students who need behavioral interventions. Similar to our other interventions (reading, math, speech, etc.), we want to accept each child for where they are and work to help them improve,” Tregoning said.
Reach Vandalia-Butler Schools at 415-6400.