By Allison Collins
AFTON – Crimson Knights in grades pre-K through 12 started the school year off strong last week with the introduction of an all-new, campus-wide positive behavior interventions and supports system.
Using an informative video featuring Afton teachers, ice-breaker activities, art activities and team-building exercises throughout the day Friday, administrators highlighted PBIS goals for students.
“PBIS is really about building a positive school culture, climate and community,” Laura Zanrucha, middle and high school principal, explained. “It’s a way of taking a proactive instead of a reactive approach.”
Plans for Friday’s rollout, Laura Zanrucha said, got underway last June and were overseen by a committee of Afton administrators, parents and instructional and non-instructional staff. Afton administrators not involved in planning were briefed on the system Wednesday, she said.
While new to students, Zanrucha noted, the PBIS concepts have already received strong support.
“The Afton community has really embraced it,” she said.
Though Zanrucha became principal just last March, implementing PBIS reflects administrators’ long-term goals for the district, which includes nearly 600 students.
“Each year, we’ll be adding different levels so that kids get added experience,” Zanrucha said. “And the big ones are spending the day with the little ones. We’ve matched kindergarteners with the seventh-graders … so that they stay with them and can bring them up through the years.”
“This is a way to just focus on the positive,” she added. “In rural districts with a lot of poverty, kids tend to get used to hearing the negative, so we’re really leading with, ‘This is what you’re doing well today.’”
Various positive reinforcement initiatives and incentives, Zanrucha said, will help motivate students to work toward the district’s three main expectations: being safe, being responsible and being respectful. And, because expectations and rules will be “exactly the same” among all students, she noted, all Afton students will “know the same language.”
Incentives include collecting “crimson crests,” which qualify students to become a “Knight of the Week” and, from there, a “Knight of the Round Table,” with special recognitions along the way.
Afton Superintendent Tim McNamara said implementing PBIS aligns with the district’s overarching goals.
“It’s part of our mission statement to work together,” he said. “And this is about bringing it all together—getting the kids to understand that it’s really pre-K through 12 and it’s one family.”
McNamara said, in addition to increased school pride, he expects the system to “make kids and parents more engaged.”
Attending Friday’s rollout, Afton Board of Education President Maryann Palmatier said, she and other members of the five-person board were happy to back PBIS.
“We needed some change and we want to do the best for our kids,” she said. “We want Afton to be the No. 1 school in Chenango County.”
Zanrucha said Tuesday that students seem to be embracing PBIS.
“(Friday) went great,” she said. “The students said they had fun and wanted to do a day like that again. We have already noticed positive changes in the building and the overall feeling of community is awesome.”
To learn more or view the video detailing PBIS at Afton, visit aftonscd.org.