Culture change showing results at O.H. Perry School

One of the doors decorated by O.H. Perry School students during the anti-bullying campaign.

There’s a culture shift underway at Oliver Hazard Perry School under new Principal Anne Priemer, one that is already beginning to produce concrete results.

Priemer said school suspensions are down significantly this year compared to this point in the 2014-15 school year at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District K-8 school.

She believes that an assertive, but gentle, insistence on both positive reinforcement of good behavior and exposure of the negative consequences of actions like bullying among students is one of the biggest contributors to that fact.

Positive reinforcement is coming in the form of a weekly contest for each grade level for students to earn “Soaring Eagle” points for when they are “caught being safe, respectful and responsible.”

Any adult in the school can award the points, but they count double when given out by the new principal.

Veteran kindergarten teacher Elaine Salomon, who has taught 23 of her 24 years at OH Perry, said she is beginning to see a growing desire in her students to “be the one that gets the reward.”

“It’s still early in the year to see the entire effect, but I am noticing that they are more motivated to be the ‘Soaring Eagle’ next month because one of their friends earned it this month.”

The Soaring Eagles winners each week receive small prizes – from a half day “shadowing” Priemer to a free lunch to the very popular “dress down” pass – but the monthly winners can score even bigger prizes. The September winners won tickets to a Cleveland Indians game (see photo).

Salomon said any positive change in the culture of any school will result in better attendance, better test scores and a better overall school community.

“This is happening while at the same time all of us are doing more to reach out to our families to get them more engaged in the school community,” she said.

The other side of the equation, the anti-bullying efforts, are being led by Kawanda Williams, coordinator of the school’s Planning Center.

Planning Centers are a constructive alternative to in-school suspensions where students can come to a safe room and be helped – both emotionally and academically – by the on-site coordinator. CMSD established the centers as part of the  Social Emotional Learning (SEL) component of its “Humanware,” initiative.  Humanware was conceived and put into place after a 2007 school shooting.

Williams and Priemer have brought two of the most popular anti-bullying programs into the school: WAVE (Winning Against Violent Environments) and NOW (Not on Our Watch).

Recently, the school also held a door-decorating contest in which students illustrated the  theme, "Think Before you Speak" to increase awareness of the power and impact of words.  The winners received a pizza party, Priemer said. (See the photo of the winners with their tickets).

She said both the positive and the battle against the negative of bullying spring from a desire to grow her school into a safe and wholly successful community.

“”My goal is for Oliver Hazard Perry to be a ‘destination school,’ a place with stellar academics where people will drive their kids to or put them on a bus from anywhere in the city.

“I don’t want to just stop at getting a little better. I want to be the best.”

CMSD Communications

CMSD Communications is the marketing arm of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 11:41 AM, 11.25.2015