PONTOTOC – South Pontotoc kindergarten student Lizze Ruth spent a day last week checking on teachers, organizing state test data and patrolling the school’s hallways. In another part of the school, first-grader Allie Rackley helped students having trouble making artwork and prepared the materials those students would need for their projects. Both students earned the opportunity to try new roles at the school because of their good behavior. Under South Pontotoc Elementary’s Positive Behavior Supports program, students earn Cougar Paws for doing things like listening to teachers, standing quietly in line or being prepared for class. Students can redeem their paws for prizes like the ability to wear a cap all day or wear pajamas to school, or pick from a treasure box. Ruth and Rackley saved their paws until the end of the semester for something larger. Ruth used 100 Cougar Paws to be an assistant principal for the day last Tuesday. Rackley cashed in 75 to be assistant art teacher. “I liked walking around the school,” Ruth said. Several students also used their Cougar Paws on Tuesday to have lunch with South Ponototoc Elementary Principal Anna Guntharp. “I think it motivates the other students to earn those rewards,” Guntharp said. “We want to recognize positive behavior. It has really worked for us and made a difference.” Art teacher Lisa Bost, who spent the day with Rackley, said the first-grade student got to see the other side of the classroom. She said she’ll have a total of four students shadow her as part of the program. “It shows them what it is like to prepare for class,” Bost said. “They’re also on this side of the fence and see why it is important for students to be quiet.” Sydney Wise, behavior intervention specialist for the Pontotoc County School District, said the middle schools and high schools also have their own reward programs. Wise said the district is in its second year of a five-year process of implementing Positive Behavior Supports, but referrals already have declined 10-15 percent from last year.
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal