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Program aims to improve classroom, school climates

Published December 15. 2011 05:01PM

Officials of the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative recently learned about a program that motivates students to act properly during the school days.

During the recent meeting of the collaborative, Palmerton Area School District officials Robert Palazzo, school psychologist; and Jodi Kocher, school counselor; introduced the school-wide program that has been implemented in the school district The School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. The program aims to improve classroom and school climates; decrease reactive management; provide proactive support for students; and maximize academic achievement.

Palazzo outlined the program, which was designed by the school district last year. The program allows students to earn a "ticket" for good behavior. They then join the SOAR 200 Club, which is like a hall of fame for students because they can receive bonuses for being in the club.

Kocher noted that the program is continually being modified since its implementation last year.

At first, students could earn tickets for good behavior and could use them to purchase small gifts. This worked well with the elementary students but wasn't much of a draw for older students. The SOAR 200 Club, which began this year, is now more of a draw for older students.

The pair noted that there is also awards given to classes if officials notice that everyone is doing what is asked of them.

In addition to rewarding good behavior, the school has also taken a stronger stance on negative behavior.

Palazzo used the example of a child back-talking to a teacher.

He said that instead of taking recess away or detention, the student would meet with the teacher during recess and discuss why the action was wrong; possibly write a letter of apology for their actions and a letter would be sent home to the parents.

The program has worked so far, Kocher and Palazzo said, adding that in addition to student involvement, the school is trying to get parents more involved by holding family fun nights.

It was noted that other school districts, like Jim Thorpe, has also implemented positive behavior programs that reward students in similar ways.

In other matters, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, co-chairperson of the collaborative, announced that effective immediately, the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health/Mental Retardation will now be called the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health/Developmental Services. The name change comes after new legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October that removes the term "mental retardation."

According to the legislation, the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" are to be removed from health, education and labor policies and replaced with the new accepted term "intellectual disability" or "individual with an intellectual disability." The rights of individuals with disabilities will remain the same.

The group is also one step closer to opening the first out-patient therapy center for students and families in the Jim Thorpe Area School District. The project, which has been in the works for years, will begin at the Penn-Kidder campus and can be utilized by students. If the program is successful, plans to expand the program into other school districts would be completed.

The program is expected to be up and running by early February.

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