School pushes positive behavior

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— A group of about 270 middle school students shuffled into the Chief Plaza Theater Friday as a reward for positive behavior and academic accomplishment.

Steamboat Springs Middle School has created a School Incentive Program that is trying to focus less time on disciplining students and more time recognizing those with great achievements.

"We traditionally have rules to punish kids, but we were never rewarding students who go above and beyond," said Assistant Principal Tim Bishop.

Bishop said when he first came to the middle school last year, he noticed more students getting reprimanded in the office and pondered how he could change the situation.

"We spend so much time dealing with discipline issues. I thought students are just not behaving," Bishop said. "But I realized that's not why I got into education. I got into it to inspire and educate."

Bishop said something had to be done.

After reading pamphlets of other programs in different states, he and others at the middle school threw together a program of two incentive days last spring.

Bishop said the positive outcome secured his idea that a program needed to be set in place on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

Now, with financial help from the student council and the Parent Information Committee, Bishop has molded criteria that allow students to achieve more, while not punishing those who do not.

"The students who didn't meet the criteria will be attending regular classes," Bishop said of the reward trip last Friday. "They're not being punished, but the others are being rewarded."

A student may not have any D's or F's, any disciplinary referrals or be tardy more than two times to gain the reward. Bishop said at the end of every 4 1/2-week period, the slate is wiped clean and all students in the school have a chance to prove themselves.

Bishop said he originally thought about one-third of the student body would be rewarded. After the turnout on Friday, Bishop wondered if the criteria was not tough enough. But after mulling it over, he realized this is the accomplishment the school needed to praise.

"It just shows we have really good kids and we want to show them that we appreciate it," Bishop said of the more than 50 percent of the student body that was rewarded.

Bishop said the program has been a paperwork nightmare, but the school cannot leave out one student who has met all the criteria.

Brad Kindred, student council sponsor, said that some of the money raised for the rewards come from the soda machine on campus.

"We want the students' money to go right back to the students," Kindred said of the $500 the movie bonus will cost the school.

The student council activity fund pays for dances, banners and flags and supports extracurricular activities and the incentive program.

When plans for the incentive program were still under way, parents showed interest in developing a Junior National Honor Society to identify those academically outstanding students.

The middle school concluded that while recognizing strong academics, they also wanted to commend those students who tried, but sometimes weren't as successful with high grade point averages, Kindred said.

That's when the incentive program was born.

"It's actually a two-prong approach," Kindred said of the Junior Honor Society and the incentive program. "The bottom line is to give students the opportunity to succeed and be immediately rewarded."

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