HHS starts behavior program

By Julie Fann
star staff
A pilot program that rewards good behavior in adolescents may forever plunge into the recesses of our memory the school bully who receives all of the attention. Danny McClain, Hampton High School principal, believes the school's Positive Behavior Support Program will have long-lasting positive effects for students.
"Our motto is - 'we want to catch someone doing something good'. We tend to focus on punishing bad behavior and forget to reward good behavior," McClain said. "This is the first year that we're doing it, and we want to reward the kids who go a little bit above and beyond."
The Carter County School System's special education department, in a joint effort with East Tennessee State University, has spear-headed the project, which school officials hope will eventually be implemented in every county high school.
"The idea is about 20 years old, but we are just now considering using it in schools," said Vanessa Petty, special education behavior specialist with the Carter County School System.
McClain and a team of seven teachers and three ETSU staff who are part of the grant-funded initiative meet every two to three weeks to hash out ideas to reward positive behavior and also help students who are struggling. The program mirrors a similar one begun at a West Virginia high school with student population statistics similar to those of Hampton High School.
"What we've created are Bulldog Bucks. Each teacher gets $10 in one dollar increments to give out as they please each month. Then, at the end of two weeks, or a month, students can spend those bucks at a concession stand where we'll have tee-shirts, candy, hats, etc.," McClain said.
Students who receive Bulldog Bucks may show outstanding behavior in terms of kindness toward and respect for others, or they may have improved test scores or subject grades.
But isn't good behavior a quality assumed to exist among students of high school age, not a quality that should be rewarded? According to McClain, when those students who struggle with behavior and grades see that rewards exist for improvement, they will be encouraged to change.
"A student might see other students being rewarded for good behavior, and they might want to be rewarded as well," he said.
The Positive Behavior Support Program also works in conjunction with a program titled Alternative to Suspension, which is designed to teach students conflict resolution skills and anger management techniques. "Often, when a kid misbehaves, we suspend them, and I don't know that that is the ideal situation," McClain said. "Also, if we see a kid who struggles with behavior, we might sit in on classes and observe, then come up with ways to help him or her."
Raising support from the community is one important goal of the behavior team so that rewards might be more substantial and connected to community life. Once the school has raised enough community support, a concession stand will become available.
"This is our first year in doing this, so we're still in the planning stages," McClain said.
Members of the positive behavior team at Hampton High School, in addition to McClain, are Patrick Kelly, Sharon Thomas, Kim Walsh, John Melendez, Debbie McCormick, Elaine Burleson and Jerry Street.