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I’m Justin Jones and I’ve been the principal at Hillsboro Middle School for five years. I was formerly a history teacher at the high school. Hillsboro Middle is an inner city school that consists of 1,556 students. Our school is located in a large city in the southeast. The gang influence is just starting in our school and we are trying to “nip it in the bud” as Barney on Andy Griffith would say. The free and reduced lunch rate at the school is 79% with most of the students coming from homes where minimum wage is earned and jobs change frequently. Five years ago my teacher turnover rate was 27%. My classified staff turn over rate was 54% each year. Absenteeism was so bad that I dreaded answering the phone in the morning. I knew it would be the beginning of a two hour search to find a substitute to come to our school. Many subs refused to come to our school because it was so bad. My first year as a principal, I saw 3,546 students in my offices for office discipline referrals. I have two assistant principals and the three of us spent all of our time in the office with students lined up in the halls waiting their turn to talk to us. This happened the first three years I was principal at Hillsboro Middle.

After completing my third year, I spent one whole summer figuring up how much time office discipline referrals (ODR) accounted for in our lives. I estimated that I spent an average of 15 minutes with each student that walked in my door. Looking at the first year data of 3,546 ODR’s times 15 minutes equals 53,190 minutes. Broken down this was: 887 hours or 127 days (based on 7 hour days). The students were in school 190 days and I spent 127 of them dealing with discipline referrals. This did not count the parents I had to deal with or the staff members who came in my office to rant and rave. I had to do something or else I was going to go for a one way ride to the asylum.

At one of our district administrator meetings, they invited some lady from the state department to come and talk to us and tell us about a new initiative in the state. It was called School-wide Positive Behavior Support (SW-PBIS) I didn’t listen much to what she was saying because I was still fuming about one of the bullies of our school who threw the shoes of one of our special needs student’s up on the roof of the building. Finally, I focused on what she said when I heard they usually saw a 60-80% reduction in office discipline referrals. Now she had my attention. Where do I sign up?

This was two years ago and I’m happy to report that we also had significant changes in our school climate. Here’s how I got started. I asked a group of teachers to join me in the training. I knew I needed representation and I needed to get some “buy-in” from the tough sell teachers so I asked a couple of the tough cookies to be part of the team:

  • Sixth Grade Team
  • Seventh Grade Team
  • Eighth Grade Team
  • Special Education
  • Sports Team
  • Connections (Drama, Computer, Home Economics etc.)
  • Administration
  • Parent
  • Classified

Reflections:

  1. Why did Justin feel that it was important to sell the tough cookies on the School-wide Positive Behavior Support?
  2. Why is it important to know the time spent dealing with office discipline referrals?
  3. Why is it important for the school to know what their office discipline referrals were for previous years?
  4. Why is it important to have representation from each of the areas listed above?

 

 


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