A positive conversation meets a negative opinion

Not all school board members are on board with district's PBIS

NEW LONDON — A conversation on positive behavior brought forth negative attitudes at the New London School Board meeting Monday night.

The meeting was opened with a presentation on the PBIS (positive behavior intervention and support) program currently operating at Clark Elementary but not all board members were in support of the program.

PBIS is a nationwide program aimed at rewarding positive behavior in the hopes the behavior will become natural and stop needing to be rewarded. Teachers hand out tickets to students who they see doing something positive such as holding a door or working independently. Students’ names are put on the tickets which are then put into a bowl. At the end of the week the teacher will draw a name and that student is eligible for a special reward such as bringing a stuffed animal to school or chewing gum in class.

School board member Skye Wellington was not impressed with the program and said he did not feel students should be rewarded for behaviors that were expected of them already.

Superintendent Chad Wahls came to the defense of the program and explained that the students come from a variety of backgrounds and not all households have the same expectations of the students. He said that by implementing rules and standards within the classroom, the students will eventually learn to do the positive task because they know they are supposed to and not just for the reward.

Clark Elementary Principal Todd Palmatier echoed that sentiment by adding, “It’s a way to identify kids and have the same expectations in every class.”

As the discussion came to an end, four sixth-graders marched up to the board and presented their latest project: bacteria in the school.

Sixth-grade science teacher Shane Barron brought the middle school students and a slew of parents, to show what his life science students have been up to.

He explained that the students have been taking bacteria samples from around the school and combining them with agar, a Chinese preservative, to develop bacteria in Petri dishes.

The goal was to get the students engaged in science in a way that was engaging, interesting and productive for both themselves and the community.

“This project is a collaborative effort,” Barron said. He continued by telling the board that students have been taking pictures of bacteria in their yards and writing letters to write to local college professors. Barron’s goal is to get the students more engaged with both the community and the school.

“I think the kids have enjoyed it and we just wanted to give you a chance to see what we’ve been doing downstairs,” said Barron.

Moving the conversation back upstairs to the auditorium, Wahls then introduced the William M. and Donna J. Hoaglin Foundation Grant proposal to the board.

Wahls explained that the school is seeking $90,000 for improvements to the lighting in the auditorium. He said the existing lights still work, but are reaching the end of their life and also cited safety reasons for the needed upgrade.

He also introduced the Enhance Henry County Foundation Grant proposal, to be used for a new projector for the space. Wahls did not have a dollar amount prepared for that grant. Both were approved 4-0. Board member Jesse Howard was absent.

High school and middle school principal Scott Kracht was excited about the possibility of upgrading the space and encouraged the board to come see the fall play on Nov. 9 and 10. “Our kids are doing some great things whether it’s on the field, in the auditorium or in music,” he said. “We have a lot of great things going on in New London.”

Palmatier expanded on those great things and opportunities by explaining that the second-graders have a chance to take a swimming class this January.

He explained that the YMCA in Burlington has been in touch and is offering the class to the students during the school day. The logistics have yet to be determined, but Palmatier was excited about the possibility.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for families who can’t afford swimming lessons because it gets those kids in the water,” he explained.

He also explained that the National Honor Society students from the high school are coming to the elementary level to help mentor the students. The plan is to create a Big Brother Big Sister-like scenario for the younger students who need positive reinforcement and to give a sense of responsibility to the high-schoolers.

Responsibility is a common expectation for New London students and is reflected both in school and on the football field. Activities Director Mike McBeth read a letter he received from a parent at Iowa Valley.

The letter noted that the parent and her son, who was on the Iowa Valley football team, were both very impressed with the sportsmanship the New London players showed. McBeth expressed his pride for the team and the positive reputation the players were creating.

The next meeting of the New London School Board will be Monday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. in the boardroom.