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Programs put in place to encourage good behavior, discourage bullying

At Tuesday’s monthly board meeting school leaders at McDonogh City Park Academy announced a new partnership with the Center for Restorative Approaches and the successful implementation of the Kickboard program.

Kickboard is an online data-collection tool that helps teachers gather information about students’ academics and behavior. The program allows teachers to keep detailed digital records of each student, which are used to improve classroom instruction and inform weekly communications with parents.

“There is also a student paycheck component of Kickboard, which is used to issue positive behavior incentives and reward good behavior,” said board member Emily Waterfield.

At McDonogh City Park the paycheck component is known as “Thunderbucks,” and Assistant Principal Shelia Hebert explained how it works. At the start of each school week students receive 100 Thunderbucks. Students get more Thunderbucks for good behaviors, such as improved grades or being respectful to other students. Conversely, Thunderbucks are deducted for bad behaviors such as tardiness, cell phone use, and not wearing a uniform. Students may save their Thunderbucks to purchase snacks or participate in special school activities.

While the program only began this year, Waterfield said that “student investment in class has increased and minor misbehaviors have decreased.” She said paycheck deductions are most commonly issued for inappropriate peer interactions, such as teasing.

Waterfield said inappropriate peer-interaction is the main reason McDonogh City Park has decided to partner with the Center for Restorative Approaches, a component in the New Orleans Neighborhood Housing Services’ “Community Building Initiative.” The center provides services to schools to develop a more positive school culture, enhance students’ social and emotional education, and improve communication among staff.

McDonogh City Park will work with a trained facilitator from the center to implement behavior intervention strategies. By using restorative communication techniques, accountability plans, and conflict interventions, school leaders hope the program will serve as an alternative to student suspension or expulsion.

According to a report prepared by dean of students Gerald Posey and assistant principal Shelia Hebert, there were 42 detentions and five suspensions during the first six weeks of school. Hebert said the most common disciplinary problems at school were bullying, willful disobedience and disrespect towards adults. To address these issues, Hebert said the school held discussions with students and parents about the dangers of bullying.  Further, anti-bullying videos were shown, and anti-bullying literature was distributed to both students and parents.

Like many other schools in the area, McDonogh City Park also sustained minor damages from hurricane Issac. Principal Christine Mitchell said the school suffered a few blown out windows that have cost $950 to repair thus far. The greatest damage to the school resulted from its week-long loss of electricity, which spoiled the school’s entire food supply.

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