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  1. Education

Promoting positive behavior brings results at Parrott Middle School

BROOKSVILLE — Parrott Middle School principal Brent Gaustad describes his school's Positive Behavior Support program as rewards for consistent positive behavior.

But it's more than that, he says. He wants students to see the good in others. He wants them to have incentives to do the right things.

This attitude may be part of why the school's PBS program has earned a gold model rating twice, one of six Hernando schools that have achieved gold status.

The PBS rating system is sponsored by Florida's Department of Education, and schools must complete levels of criteria to be rated gold, silver or bronze.

Here's how Parrott's program works. Students earn "paws bucks" (the school's mascot is the leopard) for demonstrating PRIDE — potential, respect, integrity, determination or engagement. All staff members have paw bucks, and when they notice good behavior, such as holding the door open for someone, assisting another student or even throwing out gum before being asked, staff members hand out bucks.

Mostly they hand out $1 bucks, but sometimes $5 is appropriate, examples being returning signed documents from home or standing up for a student who is being picked on.

Paw bucks can be spent at the school store, but there are other options. Once a month, students with enough bucks can buy lunch on the quad. They get to eat outside, where there is music.

Teachers can offer their own rewards for bucks as well, such as using the teacher's rolling chair for a day or purchasing lunchtime with her or him. Students can even save up to be principal for the day.

Students can also be nominated by the staff to eat in a special lounge for a week. The area is right off the cafeteria and was made possible with assistance from Walmart and Sims Furniture. The lounge has four 42-inch gaming televisions, one 60-inch 4K surround-sound television, a ping-pong table, couches, foosball and tables.

"Every day, we cook popcorn for them," Gaustad said. "It's their own little piece of heaven."

The program is not all about paw bucks or a special lunch area. To have a certified gold program, the school has to demonstrate no significant disproportionality in office discipline referrals and out-of-school suspensions across all student population subgroups, program coordinator and drama teacher Nichelle Mohre-Cassidy explained. Parrott does this by reviewing discipline data with staffers and teachers and by offering a variety of PBS activities monthly, as well as with bigger events twice a year and strategies for what are known as Tier 2 and Tier 3 students.

The program has three tiers, and the bulk of students — about 80 percent — are on Tier 1. They behave well or have committed only one minor infraction, such as class disruption, a dress code violation or a bus violation within a month.

For gold status, no more than 15 percent of students can be on Tier 2. These are students who have received two or more disciplines for those same issues or if they receive one discipline for a more serious matter. They receive weekly interventions with a staff mentor to work on anger management, social skills and/or academic goals.

"These students are also monitored weekly by their teachers," Mohre-Cassidy said.

To achieve gold status, no more than 5 percent of students can be at Tier 3. Those are students who have not been successful with Tier 2 interventions. They are placed with mentors, and the students check in and out with the mentors each day.

"We really try as hard as we can to intervene as much as possible," Mohre-Cassidy said. "We really do have a solid process in place for managing those three tiers."

Citing the school's improvement from a state grade of D to a B, Mohre-Cassidy said, "When behaviors improve, academics improve as a natural consequence. The purpose of PBS is to help all students be successful."

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