Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center aims to improve student behavior with rewards system

By Robert Tomkavage - | August 11th, 2015 11:06 am

FACTORYVILLE — Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center Principal Brian Kelly hopes offering incentives to students will help improve their behavior and the overall learning experience at the school.

Kelly plans to launch a school-wide Positive Behavior Support System, titled R.O.A.R., this fall. The four targeted behaviors of the system will be respectful, organized, accepting and responsible.

“The idea started 13 months ago when I became principal of the elementary center,” Kelly said. “I started talking to the staff and hearing some of their concerns about frequent disruptions in the classroom. They were losing class and instruction time.

“Academics is key. I believe our teachers have all the tools they need — the curriculum, the assessments, the instruction — but the disruptions are hurting them and that’s what we’re attacking. And, who doesn’t want to make it a more fun place to come?”

Kelly began experimenting with ways to improve student behavior a year ago by recognizing acts of kindness.

“Last year, I created ‘Good News from the Principal’ postcards,” he said. “I would go to a class and ask who has done something above and beyond. Teachers would identify a student and I’d bring them to my office, fill out a card and make a positive phone call to their parents. That was contagious around the building and teachers were asking me to do it in their rooms. Then, I asked the teachers to start calling some of the families.”

Kelly was thrilled with the support and enthusiasm from fellow staff members regarding the positive behavior support system.

“We started with a small committee before Christmas break in 2014 that got very big,” he said. “We’ve met several times a month from January (2015) to now and developed a whole system based off what we think are the needs of our students.

“Close to half of the staff showed up the first day and stayed committed through the whole year. That showed me they want this as much, if not more than I did for the children. It makes it a lot easier to do when they’re focused on making this the best program.”

The R.O.A.R. initiative is an offshoot of a bus safety program started during last school year where students were given prizes for following the bus rules.

“My first job was to get the behaviors under control on the bus,” Kelly said. “I wanted to (reward) the behavior and it has worked.”

There will be a similar rewards system, changing throughout the year, that will range from a homework pass to a limo ride to lunch with classmates.

“That’s the fun part,” Kelly said. “Every full-time staff member will have 25 tickets to give to students each week. Every Friday, our Parent Teacher Organization is going to open the new school store and students can exchange tickets for pencils or other supplies.”

According to Kelly, there will also be unorthodox prizes such as sitting in a teacher’s chair for a day and extended gym classes.

“We have to make this attractive to kids from kindergarten to sixth grade,” he said. “We have a real comprehensive plan for the first week of school, which starts on Aug. 31. A big part of this program is to teach the expectations. When the kids walk in the first day, there will be huge banners with all the behaviors and expectations.”

There will also be a monthly reward students can use tickets to buy themselves into and, according to Kelly, there will be a plan in place for students who don’t meet the program’s expectations.

“We will use resources to teach them why they’re not there,” Kelly said. “That’s the key to this whole thing. We will have a law enforcement liaison along with a teacher and school counselor that will be teaching students each month why they didn’t make it and help them set a goal to give them the opportunity.”

While there is also apprehension of how the program will play out, Kelly said the majority of the staff is optimistic about its prospects.

“At the end of the year, when you (sometimes) see teachers burned out and ready for summer, I noticed energy,” he said. “I’m getting feedback from them that they can’t wait to come back to school to see this through. I wasn’t going to do this unless I had 80 percent or more of the staff buy in and I’m well beyond that.”

Kelly added while the program will only be unveiled at the elementary center this fall, it may expand to other buildings in the future.

“Dr. (Mark) Murphy, the high school principal, is extremely interested and has plans to begin a committee and start the implementation process,” Kelly said. “We don’t want this to end at sixth grade, we want it throughout the district.”

Kelly Robert Tomkavage | Abington Journal
Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center Principal Brian Kelly and his staff developed the R.O.A.R. School-wide Positive Behavior Support System to encourage better student behavior. Trail Elementary Center Principal Brian Kelly and his staff developed the R.O.A.R. School-wide Positive Behavior Support System to encourage better student behavior. Robert Tomkavage | Abington Journal

By Robert Tomkavage

Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.