Submission by: Dr. Tracy Platt
I applaud the editorial staff not only for their well written piece but also for pointing out the hazards of making change without the opportunity for complete explanation and collaboration. In my effort to not overwhelm students, I clearly have failed to communicate the important reasons behind this implementation of PBIS.
PBIS is an effective, research based tool that has been successfully implemented across the nation K-12. It is a proactive approach to establishing behavioral expectations and is preventative in nature rather than punitive. That said, its usefulness can only be measured by proper use of data.
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year a behavioral matrix was implemented. This matrix was made up of all expectations in our school but we failed to “teach” and “model” these expectations. Judging from data pulled from our discipline entries last school year, discipline was inconsistent and lacked clear expectations and procedures. Students and staff alike were frustrated, not to mention the students who shared numerous stories about the lack of acceptance and kindness they felt on our campus.
PBIS is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional and academic success. This year, we followed the program’s process entirely and spent time “teaching” and “modeling” examples that were logged from last school years discipline entries. These skits were not fictitious and had actually occurred on our campus. Having students spend the day learning clear expectations was not an attempt to belittle but rather to inform.
We have great students at Smithville High School, and I would agree with the editorial staff “very intelligent students.” Last year’s staff asked for feedback on items that students would like to earn at our high school. Our next steps were to begin providing some of these incentives and freedom while also creating a team of students to serve on a PBIS committee. This committee would collaborate with staff and provide feedback on everything from incentives, procedures and practices. Students on this committee would join the staff on a trip to another school that utilizes the PBIS system to see how it works for that school and to get an idea of where to go from here.
As we attempt, to change the culture at Smithville High School and implement the Warrior Strong program, I only ask that we assume the best intent of each other. Change never happens easily. Effective change never occurs without open communication, collaboration, and trust. I am appreciative that our students are engaging in conversations about PBIS. Any student that knows me personally is aware that I am open to collaborating and engaging in dialogue that is constructive and meaningful.
This article has gotten a little ahead of the implementation of the PBIS program, but students are entitled to their own opinion. I would only ask that you provide the program enough time to give a well informed and a thorough explanation of disagreements.
School is a place to learn, and I want to assure everyone I, too, learn every day. As your new principal I am reflective and in agreement with the fact that we need to approach this differently. My goal is for every student to have a great experience at our high school. Positive school culture is built on relationships and trust but needs to be done collaboratively. I hope that the editorial staff and others are ready to join the PBIS committee and help bring positive change to our school.