Wolcott Elementary Recognized for Learning Environment

by Doug McClure

WOLCOTT – Wolcott Elementary School has “attained the VTPBIS School of Recognition for 2021,” the school notified people via its Twitter last week. PBIS is an acronym for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, which many schools both in Vermont and around the country implement. It works as a framework, and in Vermont is intended to influence the school’s culture. 

Rob Horner of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Technical Assistance Center for PBIS noted that “the fundamental purpose of PBIS is to make schools more effective and equitable learning environments.” The framework focuses on learner agency and engagement of students by giving them a more participatory approach to their education. It also works to build quality relationships between students and adults. Its four expectations are summed up as “Be Respectful, Engage, Strengths-based, Team Solutions.” The program hopes to help students impacted by trauma, mental health issues, disabilities, substance use or antisocial behavior by improving their connectedness to the school, reinforcing healthy habits, developing interpersonal skills, and working toward self-management.

The effectiveness of the PBIS framework “rests on a foundation of ongoing data collection, analysis, and intervention based on assessed needs,” according to Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Adam Rosenberg.

Wolcott Elementary is working at the “intensive” level of PBIS, which VTPBIS describes as “individualized interventions provided to students with the most complex emotional and behavioral needs.” Each year, schools are recognized for hitting targets, principal Matt Foster said. 

“Our school PBIS team completes a portion of the evaluation and our staff completes another anonymous portion of it. The information goes to the VT PBIS organization and they evaluate the information and determine how well we are implementing the program in alignment with how they intend it to be run. We try to hit the target each year and this last year we hit it.”

Ordinarily, the schools are characterized as either “Schools of Merit” or “Exemplar Schools,” but COVID-19’s disruption meant a simplification to “Schools of Recognition.” Wolcott Elementary was recognized as one of those schools for 2021.

Foster said that “our kids benefit from a safe and positive learning environment and the PBIS system helps us provide that.”