You may have heard the phrase “Don’t take any wooden nickels!” However, that advice doesn’t hold true in the district’s PBIS schools, where students are eager to earn a Wooden Nickel token from a GCPS school resource officer (SRO).
Students who show good character and help others… students exhibiting acts of kindness or an understanding of their school’s expectations… Those are just a few ways that can students can earn a Wooden Nickel token.
During a recent encounter, Officer Jenaro Hare approaches a pair of Meadowcreek HS students, talking together in the school’s Student Center. Officer Hare asks, “What are Meadowcreek High’s guiding expectations?” One student immediately responds, “Oh, that’s ‘Collaborate, Inspire…’ ” and the other student chimes in, “That last one is ‘Own!’ ” Officer Hare smiles, hands each student a PBIS coin, and says, “Absolutely correct, gentlemen!” The students both thank Officer Hare and admire the coins they’ve received.
In the spring of 2017, the school district’s SROs piloted the Wooden Nickel token program to support and promote a positive school climate. The token program complements the goals of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, better known as PBIS. The PBIS initiative provides schools with the framework to support proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behavior to create and maintain a positive school climate. Since the 2010-11 school year, the GCPS’ Office of Student Discipline and Behavioral Interventions has supported the implementation of PBIS in 97 schools and programs.
“The SRO ‘wooden nickel' token is a great example of the continued efforts to provide a positive and safe climate for teaching and learning in our schools,” says Randolph Irvin, director of GCPS’ Office of Student Discipline and Behavioral Interventions. “Our SROs play a valued role in safety, as well as role modeling, mentoring, and advising.”
Mr. Irvin notes that SROs are involved in PBIS implementation and participate in PBIS walk-throughs at the schools they serve. The token program is one more way for SROs to engage in the PBIS conversation and connect with kids.
Officer Crystal Findura, who serves schools in the Peachtree Ridge Cluster, is always looking for ways to recognize good behavior choices, reward kind acts, and acknowledge an understanding of the PBIS expectations that promote a positive school environment. Officer Findura says she often speaks to students while standing near a poster outlining the school’s behavior matrix, encouraging kids to “look for clues” to answer a question she might ask about behavioral expectations.
Or, she may put students on the spot, asking for a specific example. She explains, “I’ll say, ‘Give me an example of how you can be respectful on the bus.’ The student will say, ‘Sit quietly in my seat.’” Officer Findura says her response helps make the interactions fun and engaging. “I’ll say ‘Cha-ching!’ and be dramatic about [awarding the PBIS coin]. That keeps students interested. I think that’s one of the main things to do with this program. I try to keep it fun.”
And just what is one of the wooden coins worth? At Hull Middle, the coins are worth double the paper ‘Lion Paws’ that are given out when officers witness students exhibiting good behavior.
At the end of a recent school day, Officer Findura observed a 7th grader help a student with special needs who had dropped a folder filled with papers. The SRO recognized the helpful student with a PBIS coin. “I gave her a coin for that behavior because she stopped in the middle of what she was doing, when she could have easily walked by and continued on to her class. I thought that was awesome.”
Officer Hare sees the coins as a way to encourage more police-student interaction and build a stronger bond with the students in the Meadowcreek Cluster. “We want to show them that we not only are police officers and we do enforce laws, but that’s not our only job. We’re here to talk, to mentor, and to counsel students,” he says.
“We already have a token economy in place, called Mustang Money,” says Chad Charoenlap, Meadowcreek HS’ PBIS coordinator. “Any time Officer Hare gives out a coin, it is worth five Mustang dollars. That five-to-one ratio really gets students excited.”
Last semester, a student found a cellphone in the Student Center and turned it in to Officer Hare. The action earned the student a coin on the spot. The SRO says he’s noticed that sometimes students don’t trade in the coins for rewards, but choose to hold on to them to show their friends. “That’s pretty rewarding for me and I see this as a way to encourage students to have positive behavior,” Officer Hare says.
Officer Findura agrees. “I feel like this is my opportunity to talk with more of the staff members and talk with a lot of the kids… to introduce myself and create that positive contact. The tokens are my tool to do that.”
Congratulations to GCPS’ PBIS Operational Schools:
Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Education recognized 27 Gwinnett schools with Operational status for implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) during the 2016-17 school year. The schools met specific criteria including required training and activities as well as a decline in discipline referrals. PBIS encourages positive behaviors with recognition for those students who exhibited appropriate school conduct.
- Anderson-Livsey ES
- Annistown ES
- Beaver Ridge ES
- Bethesda ES
- Grayson ES
- Lilburn ES
- Lovin ES
- McKendree ES
- Nesbit ES
- Peachtree ES
- Pharr ES
- Simonton ES
- Starling ES
- Sycamore ES
- Winn Holt ES
- Couch MS
- Creekland MS
- Duluth MS
- Grace Snell MS
- Hull MS
- Jones MS
- Moore MS
- Radloff MS
- Shiloh MS
- Sweetwater MS
- Grayson HS
- The BRIDGE at Northbrook Center