Bellefonte

Bellefonte Area recognized for programs emphasizing good behavior

Gaby Rosado and other members of the school-wide student committee talk about issues in the district. Bellefonte Area School District is the first district in its Intermediate Unit to have all its schools deemed Banner Status by the state, March 25.
Gaby Rosado and other members of the school-wide student committee talk about issues in the district. Bellefonte Area School District is the first district in its Intermediate Unit to have all its schools deemed Banner Status by the state, March 25. CDT photo

There’s a homeroom at Bellefonte Area High School that’s a little different from the rest.

At the beginning of each week, about two dozen students brainstorm ways to keep up positive vibes at school.

They were selected by teachers, faulty and staff to participate in a student committee to promote morale building at school.

“I just think it’s our way to keep up our standards and be an example for other schools,” senior Jordan Corman said.

In February, Bellefonte Area was the first district in its Intermediate Unit to attain “Banner Status” in the state’s School-Wide Positive Behavior program.

“We’re the first to have every school in our district that has fully implemented the program and been given this designation,” high school Assistant Principal Mike Fedisson said. “It’s been a long but worthy process.”

Intermediate Units oversee public school districts in different regions in the commonwealth, and provide specialized services to districts it governs.

Banner Status comes from School-Wide Positive Behavior programs that meet state requirements.

After an application process and in-person evaluation by members of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, schools must then achieve an 80 percent or higher score to be given the title.

“They want to see that we’re implementing a program that supports the things students are doing right,” Marion-Walker Elementary School Principal Sharlene Yontosh said. “They want to see that we’re posting expectations around the school and that students understand that.”

The first designations were awarded to Bellefonte Middle and Elementary schools about three years ago, despite implementing a similar program about five years before that, Yontosh said.

Last year, the high school was recognized along with Benner Elementary School.

And on Feb 23, Marion-Walker and Pleasant Gap elementary schools rounded out the list, Yontosh said.

Students districtwide are recognized for doing “good deeds” and are given tickets to exchange for prizes, Yontosh said.

Student involvement

To showcase their work, the administration will present at a conference in May in Hershey, with a focus on student voices, Fedisson said.

“Part of the reason we’re successful is because of the students,” Fedisson said. “We ask their input to allow them to be interactive with the program.”

The high school’s slogan for the program is named for its mascot, RAIDERS — respect all individuals; demonstrate excellence, responsibility and safety.

“We take a set of rules at the beginning of each year and look at different ways they can be implemented in different classes,” Fedisson said. “Safety looks different in (physical education) than it does in science class or in the cafeteria. ... When students are caught being good role models, they get a ticket.”

Those tickets are called SPARKS — spectacular acts of random kindness.

Junior Mark Armstrong said the student committee created a video in the beginning of the school year that replaced Meghan Trainor’s lyrics to “All About that Bass,” to “All About those SPARKS.”

“We wanted a fun way to get students invested in doing good things,” Armstrong said. “They get incentives for that, and I see a lot of people helping each other out, especially in study hall with homework. Even if another student doesn’t really know someone, but can help, they do.”

Committee member Courtney Crable, a junior, said other good acts include students holding the door for others and helping others with locker trouble.

“One person acts nicely and it rolls over to others,” Crable said.

“And it helps reduce unwanted behavior,” Corman added.

On Wednesday, a group of students — Armstrong, Corman, Crable, junior Emma Mills and senior Gaby Rosado — met to discuss plans for a pep rally that would include student and administration involvement and ways to improve the program.

After all, Fedisson said, it’s “still a work in progress.”

“There are a few focus areas that we need to improve on,” he said.

That includes cuts, tardiness and truancy reports and referrals.

Improvements

In September and December, there were 65 reports of students who cut class, up from 54 the year before. There were also 57 tardy reports, up from 55 the previous year, and 104 truancy reports, an increase from 41 last year.

“We need to get those numbers down,” Fedisson said.

But the spike could be a result of schedule changes, he said. The school switched from periods to a modified block schedule this school year.

For students who don’t meet expectations, Fedisson said, the district provides a mentor program for individuals to check in and out each day with a teacher or counselor and reflect on their behavior.

“We have them ask, ‘What didn’t I do right? How did my behavior reflect myself and others?’ ” Fedisson said. “It’s a way to look back on actions and improve.”

District administration said the goal is to simply be proactive instead of reactive.

“If we can help build character in our students and develop those skills to be good citizens then we’re doing our job,” Fedisson said. “Bellefonte can play a small part in a larger message.”

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