Hawthorne’s hustle wins school $5,000

Scott Swanson

Thanks to a surge of last-minute support from Hawthorne School parents and friends over the holidays, the school has netted a $5,000 grant from Pepsi, Principal Ryan Beck said.

The money will be used to fund Hawthorne’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, which uses participation in monthly events as an incentive to help students maintain safe, responsible and respectful behavior.

Beck said that Pepsi Refresh Grant project funding, such as what Hawthorne has been awarded, is distributed based on the number of votes a project receives by people who visit the Pepsi Refresh Website, http://www.refresheverything.com. The projects receiving the top 10 amount of votes each month are funded for $5,000, 25,000 and $50,000 and the top two projects receiving the most votes are awarded $100,000 each month. Projects fall into a variety of categories, from neighborhood improvement to education to arts and culture.

“It’s a fabulous program,” Beck said. “It’s pretty labor-intensive. It’s about networking and getting other groups to support your cause.”

In Hawthorne’s case, the school applied in October and its project was approved. It finished 14th in November and, as December was drawing to a close, ranked 10th.

“We didn’t know if we were 10 votes ahead of the next place or 2,000,” Beck said. “All (the site) does is tell rankings. Every half hour we would make announcements over the intercom.”

When they found themselves in 10th place on Dec. 30, Beck said the staff made a final effort, calling on friends and relatives and everybody else they could think of to hop on line and vote for their project.

He said the final push moved Hawthorne to seventh in the final tally.

“Some of these grants have been trying for eight or nine months,” he said. “The average is five months. The fact that we did it in three is fantastic. I think that’s a testament to our community, our staff voting for us. We got everybody we could to vote.”

The money will allow the school to do “bigger and better ideas” for the PBIS events held at the end of each month for students who meet the standards, which they are constantly reminded of, for safe, responsible and respectful behavior.

Becl said Hawthorne’s PBIS program has grown increasingly ambitious – and effective – in the last couple of years.

“We’ve had lots of ideas, but not a lot of funding.”

Recent events have included a Halloween party in October, the Civil War food drive in November, and personal deliveries of hot chocolate and doughnuts to every student in December. Beck said the staff tries to alternate events, mixing low-key treats such as the chocolate with higher-intensity activities. He said organizers also consult with students and among themselves to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

“We look at the data and see what works,” he said. “When we had the paper airplane show last year, the kids told us it wasn’t very interesting and referrals went up.”

Last Friday, Jan. 28, the school held a Minit to Winit game, based on the popular TV show, for students in first through sixth grades. Prizes included pens for all participants and a pizza party with the counselor. Beck said that was a big motivator, and he expects the sixth-grade-versus-staff basketball challenge this month and the May Fun in the Sun extravaganza, in which students get to play all manner of water games, to be big draws.

He said students, as well as staff, have bought into the program and whereas, in most PBIS programs, 90 percent of students do not display behavior problems, Hawthorne’s has been 99 percent without referrals.

“We take that 1 percent and make individual behavior plans for them,” Beck said. “What’s it going to take to get Timmy or Suzy to the end of the month? These are the behaviors that will get you in. Our goal is to have a student miss only one PBIS event.”

It appears to be working.

“Only one kid has missed more than one,” he said. “Thirty days is a long time, especially if school is not easy.”

He and Counselor Terry Augustadt meet with incoming students and explain what the requirements are for PBIS.

“We can’t assume that a kid knows what being safe in the cafeteria means, what respectful means, so we show them,” he said. “We don’t assume that kids know the proper etiquette in the hallway, so we have a rules roundup the first two days of school and halfway through the school year. We show them how to play wall ball properly. We show them how to stand in the lunch line properly. How safe and responsible works.”

The payoff is less time doing discipline, Beck said.

“I can be an instructional leader because I’m not in the office doing referrals all day,” he said.

The infusion of cash is “a nice nest egg” for the program and is greatly appreciated, Beck said.

“It was a great promotion for Pepsi as well,” he said. “We got $5,000 for our PBIS program and now I have about 40 pages of forms to fill out.”