STRATFORD?- Becoming a designated Paramount School is no small task. There are meetings to hold, forms to complete, a thick application to fill out annually, and new practices to adopt at the school. It's all part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program through the state Department of Education.
The effort has paid off for Stratford Elementary School, which has earned Paramount status from the Department of Education for the third time. The small Hamilton county school is one of only two in the state to achieve the recognition.
According to Stratford superintendent Sarah Binder, the process started with the teaching staff just talking. "We are very fortunate here that the staff is very collaborative," Binder notes. "We talk through things."
That started with the staff working on what they planned to teach every student about how they are going to behave. Once they had come to consensus on that, Binder said, the staff came up with a goal for all the students, which they termed The Three B's:
Be your best
The goal was to establish a positive classroom climate, because, as the veteran administrator puts it, "if you don't do that, you can't teach anything else. We worked on cultivating a climate where everyone helps each other."
It's not an overnight process to achieve such a school climate, but then it's not quick to reach the goal of Paramount status, either. To Binder, it comes down to taking it step by step, one step at a time, and then building on that the next year. There are three levels of the PBIS School Recognition Awards-Honor, Banner, and Paramount-and a school must work through each level before progressing to the highest level.
The student incentives that have come out of PBIS, all developed by the PBIS leadership team at Stratford (teachers Gina Monroe and Gina Balsley, along with Binder) in collaboration with the staff, are a big part of what makes the program work at the school. "The Wall of Fame is to die for," chuckles Binder about just one of the popular incentives where students nominate students for the honor.
If no one in school is reported for undesirable behavior for 35 days, everyone earns a special party. Then there's HAPI, the Homework Assistance Program Intervention, available to any student after school each day and staffed by a tutor paid for through Empowerment.
Binder is excited about what's going on at the elementary, proud of her staff and students, and pleased with the Paramount status the school has earned. It's easy to see that she believes the effort needed from so many to reach that level was well worth it.
Maybe it is easier to implement such programs and incentives in a small school, she allows, yet "small schools are used to pitching in if something needs done. Everyone gets on board."