District initiative aims to create a positive environment for all

By Taylor Young

Alyne Roemerman, copy editor

 A major topic of interest since the school year began is the news of early release from seminar on select Fridays. This change is part of a state mandate and district-wide initiative known as Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, or PBIS, that administration has worked on developing since the end of the last school year.

 One goal of this initiative is to create a positive environment where students can be recognized for good behavior and earn rewards for things like good grades, being on time to class, or behaving well.

 “I hope we can make [Mill Valley] a place people want to be and are excited to be here,” associate principal Jennifer Smith said.

 The behaviors targeted with PBIS are attendance and tardies, grades and seminar productivity. Smith hopes to see a decrease in tardies and absences and an increase in student achievement along with a more positive environment.

 “Any opportunity we can to help everybody be the best they can be; that’s what we’re about,” Smith said.

 Smith is the administrator most involved in the development of PBIS and is a member of the PBIS steering committee. The steering committee also includes social worker Debbie Gudenkauf, counselor Erin Hayes, social studies teacher Chris Dunback, communication arts teacher Ashley Agre, journalism teacher Kathy Habiger, as well as juniors Hanna Torline and Taylor Hunter and sophomores Davis Cantwell and Gabby Fangman.

 “[Being invited to join the committee] made me feel like people actually do look up to me and that what I do does affect other people,” Hunter said.

 The steering committee formed two student leadership teams, one composed of freshman mentors and the other composed of student leaders in sports, clubs and other activities from grades 10-12, to help develop incentives to offer students. According to Smith, all those involved are excited about PBIS.

 “What I may think of as a reward, you as a student may not,” Smith said. “We’re going to really rely on those two groups of people also to help us present the information…and get the students involved.”

 The first meeting of the freshman mentor student leadership team took place on Friday, Sept. 9 during seminar. Smith, Dunback, Hayes and Agre were present to lead the meeting of almost 40 students. Smith and Dunback both addressed the group.

 “We want to start with you…and that’s why you’re here,” Dunback said. “You have more power than we do.”

 The students were given large sheets of paper and markers to come up with ideas for future incentives other than early release. Some of the ideas were half-day finals, discounts on certain food items at lunch and off-campus lunches. Meetings of the steering committee during the previous school year included discussions of special parking spots for each grade level. The student leadership team made up of various school leaders also met on Monday, Sept. 12 to discuss incentive options.

 Future incentives will be given clear guidelines before being put in place to prevent any confusion. The early release incentive will begin today and will be based on grades, attendance and being productive during seminar according to Smith. There are nine scheduled early release dates throughout first semester.

 The incentives are not the most important part of the PBIS initiative for some, however.

 “What I’m really focused on is…the leadership,” Dunback said. “One of the things we want…is to really try to increase the positive culture of our school. Changing the…culture, it comes from setting an example on what is acceptable behavior and what is not.”

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