No public spectacles
Richardson said there’s more to making a good alternative school than safety alone.
Other changes this year include how students are brought into the lunch room (walking in a straight line and waiting until everyone has food before eating to cut down on the stress of a lunch room rush), being clear with expectations in and outside the classroom, and motivational stories in the morning.
Staff have started using much of the Boys Town Education Model this year whose website (www.boystowntraining.org) pitches itself as “a school-based intervention strategy that focuses on managing behavior, building relationships and teaching social skills.”
One example of the program, Richardson said, is an emphasis on clear and respectful communication.
“When someone hollers at you from across the room, what happens? Everyone just kind of looks right at you to see what you will do,” he said. “As educators, when you holler and say something like ‘Hey, sit down,’ who would sit down to that? Students refuse to sit down because they’ve got to save face.
“So what we’re teaching — not just our teachers, but the students, too — is that they should walk up to each other and talk to them one-on-one without the audience and public spectacle. It helps us a lot in those kinds of situations (where students are acting out).”
Tilson said simple policies like that have “changed the school a lot.”
“It’s just really better” as a result, he said.
Working on communication skills during a would-be referral has also helped school officials across the county prevent students from having to come to Mountain Creek, Richardson said.
“Most of the time, we meet the student they might be refereed to us and talk to them and it turns out they have something going on in their home life or something they’re working through,” Richardson said, adding that getting to know the students’ problems has got down on the need to take disciplinary action.