CONTINENTAL — “It’s all about school culture, and teaching the kids expectations,” says Continental Elementary Principal, Mrs. Tracy Potts when speaking on the school’s new Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. “What we expect of them, and then giving them an incentive to work towards those expectations.”

“It’s all in one, academic and behavior. Things such as, coming to class prepared, coming to class with your homework finished, following directions, paying attention, all of that is intertwined with academics. You know, if you’re not following directions, it’s difficult to get the academics in there.”

While the school’s teachers have always set expectations in their own classrooms and still will, as Mrs. Potts is quick to point out, they might differ from class to class, or subject to subject. And, classroom expectations did not necessarily include behavior in the hallways, lunch room, or on school busses. Nor were those staff members working outside of the classroom involved with setting or maintaining such expectations.

Now, the entire school, from administrators, to teachers, to office employees, to cafeteria works, to bus drivers, to the janitorial and maintenance staff - everyone - is focused on maintaining the same set of expectations for the entire student body.

“We have expectations for each area of the school,” continues Mrs. Potts, “Grounded on three core ‘Pirate Principals.’ Those principals are: ‘Be Respectful,’ ‘Be Responsible,’ and, ‘Be Ready for Success.’ Under each one of those, we have two or three bulleted expectations.”

“So, in the hallways, to be responsible means you need to walk down the hallway (not run) and on the right side. And so, those are simple expectations. And, we have posters throughout the school in each one of the areas reminding students of those expectations.”

In addition to setting expectations for student behavior, the program is designed to reward students, as individuals and groups, for meeting and exceeding those expectations. “We have ‘Crew Cards,’ each teacher and staff member gets 20 crew cards a week,” Mrs. Potts explains. “And, also one ‘Golden Ticket.’”

These tickets are given by teachers and staff to students when they are observed acting in a positive manner or otherwise meeting one of the school’s expectations. In addition, the students and their teachers have been placed into one of five color-coded “houses,” of roughly 50 students each.

Crew cards are counted up weekly. Every two weeks, the house with the most cards chooses a reward from a ‘Choice Board.’ Card totals are also added up monthly, with the winning house receiving a food incentive, such as ice cream during lunch. In addition, the house with the most cards earned during the quarter will receive a “House Party.”

“We’ll have four of those throughout the year,” Mrs. Potts says. “The first one is going to be a fall party. It will kind of be a dance party, where we’ll have music and games for the kids to do. We’re thinking painting pumpkins, bobbing for apples, and some other fall-type activities.”

Then, there’s the “Captain’s Golden Ticket.” As Mrs. Potts explains this ticket, “Is for those students who have, all week or for several days, done most of the expectations that we are asking them to do.”

Once a quarter, a name is drawn from the box holding the golden tickets. Those students have an opportunity to win a bigger prize valued at $75-$100. There is no limit to how many golden tickets a student might earn each quarter, increasing their likelihood to win the bigger prize.

The PBIS program at Continental Elementary, new for this school year, began as an unfunded state mandate. However, as Mrs. Potts relates, it has clearly received buy-in from nearly, if not all, teachers and staff at the school. It’s even being incorporated into some math lesson, with the students themselves responsible for counting the tickets earned each week, and then learning more about percentages and ratios using those counts.

When asked what she viewed as the goal for the program, Mrs. Potts answered, “We want students to ultimately be good citizens and very positive role models. That’s what we’re aiming for.”