Good behavior is a way of life for the more than 300 students at Immaculate Conception School in Jefferson City.
For the past five years, the teachers and staff have won the Silver Award from the Missouri School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (MO-SWPBS) program.
The program, based on research and objective data, began at the University of Missouri in 1998.
“Close to 10 years ago, our teachers and administration were at a flux, trying to figure out how to monitor behavior in their classrooms,” said Principal Heather Schrimpf.
There was no school-wide standard for grades pre-kindergarten through 8.
“Rules and expectations in third grade were different than those in the sixth grade,” said Mrs. Shrimpf. “We wanted some basic (behavior) principles for all ages.”
They learned about SWPBS and began visiting other local schools to see how it works, day in and day out.
“It is used mainly in public schools,” Mrs. Schrimpf noted. “We became the first Catholic school in the state to put it into practice in the 2011-2012 school year.”
Nearly a decade later, according to Christi Lewis, Immaculate Conception remains the only Catholic school in the state to be using the program.
Mrs. Lewis serves as an improvement consultant for MO-SWPBS. With an office at the University of Missouri in Columbia, she has been working with I.C. School since the program got under way there.
“They continue to do all the right things,” she explained. “They do all they can to support teachers, students and staff. They continue to be proactive in making their school a safe space.
“This is a lot of work and they have been fully committed to it,” she said.
The program consists of three tiers of implementation.
Tier One involved teachers and staff at Immaculate Conception going through an intense three years of training.
Stacey Eisterhold is the school’s fifth-grade teacher as well as its Tier One coach.
She said Tier One encompasses students who are on the right track and need encouragement to keep going. They are well adjusted and do well in the classroom.
“Close to 85 percent of our student here fall into this category,” she stated. “That means we are able to reach them academically, behaviorally and socially without issues.”
She explained that the school came up with the acronym HALO to put a unique Catholic twist on the program. HALO stands for: “Have responsibility,” “Act safely,” “Live Christlike” and “Offer respect.”
“This is a school-wide acronym that all the students are familiar with,” said Ms. Eisterhold. “Teachers use the same verbiage when dealing with these (HALO) behaviors. We have this acronym posted all over the school so that our students know what is expected of them where they are at.”
Mrs. Lewis added that a big part of Tier One is encouraging good behavior and discouraging inappropriate behavior.
One way they do this is through their HALO ticket system.
“Students earn HALO tickets when a good behavior is seen by a teacher,” Mrs. Schrimpf explained. “The hope is that by having us reinforcing these positive behaviors, the students see that there is a reward involved for doing the right thing.”
Tier Two is led by Leah Pickering, the school’s first-grade teacher.
She related that around 10 to 15 percent of Immaculate Conception students fall into this category.
“This level deals with students who are struggling more with behavioral issues, academic needs or social concerns,” she said. “We monitor data for these students and come up with a specific, individualized plan to help these students succeed.”
For instance, a teacher might recommend a student go for regular visits to one of the in-school counselors or meet with a tutor to help with a particular subject.
“It looks at the whole picture on how this student is doing,” she said.
Finally, Tier Three deals with children who are high-at-risk students.
“This encompasses less than 5 percent of our students,” said Mrs. Schrimpf. “These are students who are facing very chronic situations and might need outside therapy. It expands on Tier Two.”
She noted that the school had planned on implementing Tier Three this school year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is no longer feasible.
They hope to implement it next year.
Has the hard work and long hours of training paid off for the teachers and staff at Immaculate Conception?
“Absolutely!” said Mrs. Schrimpf.
For one thing, it has motivated the school to ramp up its resource and guidance department.
“We now have two full-time resource teachers as opposed to a part-time one that we used to share with another (local) school,” she said.
It has helped teachers maintain discipline in their classrooms.
“My office is not a revolving door as it was 10 years ago,” she said.