By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
While doing research for a grant in which the state has requested information from the Caledonia area elementary school, some data stood out.
In school year 2015-16, there were 136 incidents which rose up to the level of a visit to the principal. That number was amongst 60 different students.
As of Mar. 8, 2016, there were 86 such incidents done by 43 different students.
In 2016 and 2017 there have been 14 visits by just 13 different students.
“I could tell that things were getting better, but when we saw the data to back it up it was just mind-blowing,” said superintendent Ben Barton.
“We’ve chosen to focus on the positives and stay away from accenting the negative behaviors,” said elementary principal Gina Meinertz. “We started to focus on doing things the right way and the teachers and students have both really responded. We no longer view the behavior as bad, but rather, as a teachable moment.”
By focusing on the cause rather than the consequence, the incidents have gone down significantly.
Studies and data will show that being relational with a child is the best way to get through to him or her.
And as more and more of the staff embraced this philosophy, the district is seeing it in the data.
“All staff in our elementary building, build very strong relationships with their students,” Meinertz said. “They contribute not only their time and energy but their hearts to these students. If we didn’t have them at the ground level creating these atmospheres of belonging, our other initiatives would have no place to grow roots for support.”
As an example on the day-to-day level of the school, the elementary counselor, Sue Howe, has lunch on a daily basis with students who might need more lessons in behavioral issues.
The student might be learning something that Mrs. Howe is teaching, but to the student they are just having lunch with a pretty cool adult.
“They don’t even know they’re learning,” said Meinertz. “They just think they’re spending time with an adult in a familiar setting.”
Additionally the values have been embraced across all levels of the district.
“We have a mentoring program with the MS/HS students,” Meinertz said.
The peer mentoring program currently has 14 mentors that serve 36 littles.
“They meet weekly and bi-weekly, typically for 25 minutes during the school year, utilizing all available resources within the school: the library, the gym, a classroom, or the schoolyard,” Meinertz said. “Whether the Bigs and Littles play games or read a book together, their relationships promote a positive school experience for the children, which increases attendance, positive peer and adult relationships, positive attitudes, and academic enrichment.”
The Mentors are trained in confidentiality, relationship building, child development, social skills, engagement in the classroom and interviewing skills.
“Some of the biggest supporters of our school-based mentoring program are actually teachers,” Meinertz said. “They see students come back from their time with their Big filled with confidence, smiling big, ready to learn and eager to succeed. It’s really all about starting a friendship, providing guidance and inspiring them to reach their potential.”
As the PBIS model rounds into its third year of existence, the results are really lining up for the students.
When 4th grade students were asked to comment directly about the PBIS program or the Warrior Way they responded to the question: I feel lucky to attend Caledonia Elementary because…
Sienna Augedahl- “I feel lucky because there are no bullies here, and if there are then the teachers and staff will take care of whatever problem he/she has.”
KC Hagen, Tanner Ginther, and Lee Randall- “I feel safe.”
Grayson Staggemeier- “I always feel safe no matter what happens.”
Caleb Greb- “I make more friends here than I ever have. I feel happy in this school.”
Davis Twite- “The school is a bully free zone.”
Ella Henke- “I’m happy that no one gets bullied and how we can work in groups together.”
Lynzie Woyczik- “When there is a problem, it can get dealt with. I have kind friends here.”
Marshall Rohrer- “It is also fun when you earn the goal for golden tickets because you do cool stuff.”
Kaden Young- “If I get hurt, someone will help me. If there was a bully my friends would help me. If someone was to get bullied, I would help them.”
Cody Folsom- “This school is so respectful. The Warrior Way is awesome. Respect, Work, Belong is the best thing ever.”