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Customer Story: River Heights Intermediate

Posted Monday, October 5, 2015 by Corey Shelton

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How one administrative team made a positive change by winning the hearts and minds of students, staff, and the community.

Partway through the 2014-15 school year, there was a lot going on in California and at River Heights Intermediate. The state was rolling out legislation to reduce the use of suspensions for school discipline. Luckily, the leadership at River Heights Intermediate was already planning to do a PBIS pilot for their district, so they had a few ideas for new ways to redirect behavior.

“If we really want to change behavior, sending a kid home isn’t an effective way to do that.”

Meet Kim Seheult, the administrative representative on a stellar team that took River Heights Intermediate’s PBIS program from concept to success over the 2014-15 school year. By creatively building staff involvement, getting buy-in from the community, and an emphasis on supporting the good things that kids do in school, Kim and her team built the foundation of a PBIS program that will have a lasting impact at River Heights Intermediate.

Rendering unto teachers

In recent years, school leadership had started to notice a strain on the positive culture at River Heights. Little things. Students not making it to class oon time, teachers having to reprimand students for poor behavior, high numbers of students being suspended, and poor teacher morale. But the team believed that PBIS would help them shift the culture back towards the positive by rewarding kids for doing well, and being more consistent with discipline across the board.

Knowing that their teachers were already overworked, Kim knew it was important to create a program that avoided putting more strain on teachers in the classroom—a program that teachers could be excited about.

Rolling out a digital discipline program with Hero while rolling out PBIS allowed Kim to reassure teachers that the administrative staff would be able to follow up with discipline more effectively, while allowing teachers to take advantage of opportunities to recognize positive behavior in the classroom.

“I believe that administrators doing the discipline, and teachers doing the positive helps make classroom management easier and improves classroom culture.”

The results of this shift in discipline were impressive, indeed.

By the end of the school year, River Heights Intermediate had 100% teacher participation, and had given out rewards to 90% of students that had received positive points. And by the end of the year, they ended up tracking 13:1 positive incidents to negative incidents in Hero.

Great incentives through community involvement

When it came to incentives, River Heights definitely went all in. Part of what they discovered is that it doesn’t take a lot of resources to come up with incentives that can motivate kids to put their best foot forward.

A big first step was reaching out to the community. The administrative staff and teachers reached out to local businesses and organizations to tell them about the positive shift they had planned for the school—and the community stepped up.

Dine with the Deputy

Their most popular incentive is one of the best we’ve ever seen. They call it Dine with the Deputy. The principal reached out to the manager at the local Chipotle, who agreed to host a monthly lunch for one kid, a friend, a school administrator, and the Deputy (who is a School Resource Officer for the district). Not only is it a great reward for the kids, but it gives them a chance to get to know the School Resource Officer.

Kim gets a kick out of the fact that while the kids always have a lot of questions for him, without fail, they’ll ask, “Do you really like donuts?!”

Another benefit of Dine with the Deputy is a more direct form of engaging with the community. When members of the community see kids out having lunch with a school administrator and a police officer, it sends a good message about the positive things that they’re doing at River Heights Intermediate.

More community partners

Along with the help from Chipotle, Staples also agreed to donate a large number of small items that the team gave out as a weekly tech treat of the week, where kids got novelty flash drives, earbuds, and other rewards. And the PTSA offered to arrange a Kona Ice truck to come by the school once a month, so the top positive point earners can get free Kona Ice.

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Student reward ticket boxes and teacher participation awards.

Along with these community rewards, Kim and her team created a host of clever rewards that the engaged the kids as well—and participating teachers. From lunch line fast passes, to a dance at the end of the year for kids who had gotten enough positive points, to simple handmade crafts to give the program a little bump.

With all of these rewards in place, and a demonstrated positive shift in school climate, River Heights Intermediate is on track for continued PBIS success. And that will have an impact on the students of River Heights Intermediate for years to come.