By Jamie Folsom
In the wake of hazing incidents at Berthoud High School last year and the retirement of Principal Leonard Sherman and Athletic Director Rusty Mathena, the school year opened with questions and hopes about discipline and prevention policies.
Athletic Director and Vice Principal Mark Avery says the new administration has some good opportunities to move ahead and build on the strengths the school already has in place. “There’s a lot of history here; it’s a great school, and we have to be careful not to trample on things,” he said. “We’re taking a new direction, but you have to be prudent, be careful to honor the things that were going on long before I ever got here.”
Both Avery and Principal Chris Garcia came into their new posts hoping to set a proactive and very positive tone both for the athletic department and the school overall. They met with parents, students and staff on an informal basis, acknowledging past mistakes and opening the conversation to possible solutions.
“We told them we’re here to help you if you feel something is going the other way,” Garcia said. “From this point on, how are we going to do it?”
One step is a revised code of conduct and implementation of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) policies, which are consistent with both the current Turner Middle School system and the Thompson School District. “When we talked with parents [about the new policies] they wanted the accountability, and parents thanked us,” Garcia said.
He notes behavioral expectations are very clearly defined and they emphasize catching students doing things right.
And for the 5 percent who make poor choices, Garcia says PBS also addresses ways to break down an existing school culture and build trust to help prevent bullying. “There was this interesting dynamic, a huge hurdle of ‘I’m not going to tell anybody,’” he said.
The key, Garcia says, is communication among parents, students and staff. “This can lead to good conversations with parents. Trying to build trust with students so they’ll talk to me,” he said. “That’s my job.”
In their efforts, they have established mentoring programs for new students and encouraged counselors and teachers “to look for kids who are struggling,” Garcia said. The message he hopes every person at the school understands is that “I won’t leave you out there by yourself.”
And while the changes are already evident – staff buy-in is high and parent reactions very positive so far – the process of building trust and establishing clear consequences for undesirable behaviors will take time. Avery notes, “It’s a three- to five-year process of making it a part of the school culture.”
It also means thinking in the long term for students. “I want to promote excellence … and prepare students for success later in life,” Avery said.
<p><span style=”font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif;”><span style=”font-size: medium;”><strong>‘Coffee Break’</strong></span><br />In a scene from the Berthoud High School musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” Bud Frump, the boss’s nephew, finds the coffee urn empty, setting off the musical number “Coffee Break.” Frump is joined by the boss’s secretary, Miss Jones (Katie Kouns) and secretary Smitty (Sonya Ropek) and the chorus for this colorful cup-throwing number. <br /></span></span></p>