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It wasn’t what one would call the typical first day of school.
Students at Vandalia Community High School were playing bingo and charades, and drawing pictures in the morning. In the afternoon, they were playing dodge ball, wiffle ball or redneck golf, walking the track or just talking with friends.
The morning games were a way of explaining and reinforcing the rules for and expectations of students at VCHS. The afternoon activities were examples of rewards the students can receive for following the rules and meeting the expectations.
The first day was the third-year introduction of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at VCHS.
Generally, PBIS is a nationwide program related to student expectations and behaviors.
In the first year, “We talked about it (PBIS) and began setting the guidelines,” said Greta Krueger, who recently began serving as dean of students at VCHS after teaching English for several years.
“The second year, we set up all the expectations and introduced discipline,” Krueger said.
“This year, we’re showing them what can happen, what they get if they follow the rules and meet expectations,” she said.
On the first day, VCHS had 11 stations in the morning, each one addressing a specific topic, such as student behavior in the classroom, hallway or restroom, or expectations in the classroom.
“The students know what their expectations are, such as being in their seat in class when the bell rings,” said Anne Winchester, a Spanish teacher who is the internal PBIS coach at VCHS.
Those who meet the expectations will often be rewarded.
“At the lower grades,” Krueger said, “getting a sticker, for example, is a big deal.
“Here, the reward may be that a student is allowed to come into school late or go to lunch early. Many of the rewards are free things, but things that really mean something to them,” she said.
At the top level of the reward setup is a day off of school without having that count against their attendance record.
The staff is still fine-tuning the reward system, which involves students receiving Vandal Loot.
“For example, Mrs. Krueger will walk into a classroom, and whoever is in their seat when the bell rings can receive Vandal Loot,” said Anne Winchester, a Spanish teacher at VCHS who accepted Principal Randy Protz’s invitation to be the internal PBIS coach at VCHS.
PBIS is a system that’s in all levels of schools, with an internal coach at each school leading the implementation within his or her school.
“Anne has worked so hard on this,” Krueger said. Winchester noted that many others have been involved in the process.
Those involved are the members of the PBIS committee, which is made up of teachers, parents, students, administrators, community members and business owners.
The committee, Winchester said, would sent out surveys on particular issues, and then share the results of those surveys with faculty members.
“We always tried to make sure that we were informing the faculty and getting feedback from them,” Winchester said.
She said that the local PBIS committee took advantage of work already done by others.
“We contacted schools like O’Fallon and Mt. Vernon, who have been doing this longer. They’d tell us, ‘Here’s what we’ve done,’ ‘Here’s how it worked out for us.’”
Initial reviews at VCHS are good.
“It’s early in the school year,” Krueger said, “but there’s a different feel, a better feel. Everyone seems to be a little more happy and enthused.”
PBIS has been working well at VCHS, Krueger said, “Because we have had such good buy-in among the faculty.
“I think that you see that our faculty thinks this is a good thing, and I think the students feed off of it.”
Winchester agrees that the faculty’s perception and involvement is important.
“This would not have worked out as well without the staff supporting it,” she said.
“I have seen elsewhere where the staff didn’t buy into it, and it didn’t work out at all,” Winchester said.