PEQUOT LAKES - When the Pequot Lakes School District was forced to make budget reductions last year, one of those cuts included the high school dean of students position.
The position mostly involves dealing with student disciplinary issues so school staff had to determine an alternative method of handling these types of ongoing situations.
"We decided we needed to change how we do discipline here," said Randy Hanson, principal at Pequot Lakes Middle School.
The solution: Reward and recognize students who are making good choices and helping others to change the overall school environment. Students who are "caught" being good or make academic and behavioral improvements are given opportunities to win prizes, like free pizzas, movie passes or mini-golf, and even an iPod.
Kaylyn Eggena (left) and Kat Jenson walked through the doors Thursday at Pequot Lakes High School. The sign above reminds students of the new Patriot Pride program, where students may win gift certificates or iPods if they're "caught" being good by a staff member or make academic improvements.
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So far it appears to be working.
"Patriot Pride" is the school's version of a positive behavior intervention support program. Similar programs may be found at Crosby-Ironton, Princeton and St. Cloud Apollo schools. School administrators looked at those programs and created their own model.
"Instead of reinventing the wheel, we picked different spokes we liked and made our own wheel," said Hanson. "We came up with our own plan that fits Pequot Lakes."
Signs throughout the school emphasize three key components of Patriot Pride: respect, responsibility and integrity. There are nine main areas that the school has set clear expectations for: cafeteria, parking lot, restrooms, community, activities, hallways, media and lab, office and classrooms. So throughout the building, signs reinforce certain rules or expectations within those areas. Teachers also spend about 10 minutes every other week discussing these expectations in the classroom.
For example, the signs leading to the parking lot remind students - and staff - to concentrate on driving safely, paying attention to their surroundings and following the laws.
John McDonald, high school principal, said the number of student referrals for behavioral issues has dropped by 20 referrals since the school year started compared to last year. This is despite the fact the high school has 542 students in ninth- through 12th-grade, the largest enrollment Pequot has had, said McDonald. Hanson said the middle level has had 15 fewer referrals than last year. They said they will continue to track the data throughout the year.
Hanson said St. Cloud Apollo experienced a 26 percent drop in disciplinary referrals since its program was implemented three years ago.
"They said they have had a switch in attitude and that's what I'm aiming for," Hanson said of St. Cloud Apollo.
Pequot Lakes principals John McDonald (left) and Randy Hanson showed off some of the many iPod Nanos, Shuffles and Touches that they'll be giving away this year to students in the middle and high schools' new Patriot Pride program. Students seated in Chris Palmer's Spanish class include Mariah Anderson (left), Emma Clement, Riley Vahlsing, Zack Northenscold, Sydney Dotty and Nicole Traut.
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Less time spent in the principal's office means more time in the classroom, which could improve academic achievement, McDonald said.
School administrators worked with staff and student council members last spring to come up with the reward system. Each week the office staff generates a list of the students who haven't had academic, attendance or disciplinary issues for that week and two names from each grade are drawn. Those weekly winners may choose from a variety of rewards, including a free school event pass, a pass to go to the head of the lunch line for a week or, at the senior high, a pass to park in a reserved parking spot for a week. The weekly winners are announced on the school's address system and posted.
Students who are caught by any staff member, including bus drivers, cooks, custodians, teachers and other staff, doing something nice for others receive a certificate that they turn into the office that is entered into the monthly drawing for various prizes. Nine names are drawn and winners may choose between gift certificates and prizes donated by area businesses. The grand prizes are iPods, either an iPod Nano, Shuffle or Touch. The iPod Touch is the grand prize for the end of the semester drawings. Lakes State Bank also donated savings bonds as grand prizes. The school has red Patriot Pride T-shirts that are only available for those who win during these drawings.
There is also a Pequot academic pride award drawing for all students who reach above a certain grade point average for that quarter.
All the prizes, including the iPods, were donated by individuals, organizations and businesses at no cost to the district. Hanson has spent hours on eBay.com at night finding good deals on new and refurbished iPods, purchased with donated funds. Both principals spent time last summer asking area businesses for donations for the program and they were amazed at the positive response they received from the community in spite of the tough economic times.
The intent of the program is to get everyone throughout the school involved in catching students doing well. Staff members whose nominees' names are drawn also get a gift certificate or prize. Students who do make a poor choice are given the opportunity to get back in on the drawings the following month.
The first monthly drawing is Thursday and students are excited about the opportunity to win a prize, like an iPod Touch.
"I want the Touch bad," said Jesse Hanson, a Pequot Lakes ninth-grader who was "caught" by his social studies teacher for volunteering to go to another small group in class when the group he wanted to be in had too many members for the class project. "I think it's pretty cool that kids get rewards for something they do that's good."
Kegan Couture, also a ninth-grader, said he earned a chance at an iPod by helping to pick up a teacher's classroom.
"It's pretty sweet," Couture said of the chance to win an iPod Touch.
Pequot Lakes eighth-grader Jake Marty also earned a chance at the monthly drawing when he found his principal Randy Hanson's lost personal digital assistant on the floor in the hallway and turned it in.
"I think it's a pretty neat deal," Chris Palmer, a Pequot Lakes Spanish teacher and middle school guidance counselor, said of Patriot Pride. "I think kids will work harder to be successful and have better behavior. They're very motivated to get the iPods and they're so proud to have their names on the bulletin boards. They're just thrilled."
Hanson and McDonald said they're always looking for businesses or individuals who would like to donate gift certificates or make a monetary donation for the program as prizes. Those who are interested may contact them at the school.
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