Program helps curb Franklin school’s disciplinary problems

When Christina Cohlhepp came on as principal at Franklin Area Middle School in the 2012-13 school year she saw a disciplinary problem in need of address.

The following year, Cohlhepp formed a core team and trained staff to encourage what she called “appropriate, respectful, responsible and safe student behavior” through a program known as School-Wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (SWPBIS).

The team worked with other teachers to develop a set of expectations and a model to teach and reinforce positive behavior in classrooms.

“We needed to do something,” she told members of the Franklin Area School District board Monday night at the start of their work session.

Cohlhepp told the board that the number of discipline incidents she found was alarming.

In her first year, before the program was conceived and implemented, Cohlhepp cited 549 disciplinary incidents. There were 480 cases that led to detention, 64 that led to in-school suspension and five that prompted out-of-school suspension.

“Those were only incidents that were dealt with outside of the classroom,” she said. “We are really excited about the data.”

In a sheet given to board members at the work session, the data showed a rapidly declining number of incidents starting in the 2013-14 school year.

By the end of the 2015-16 school year, disciplinary action had been drastically reduced with just 134 incidents throughout the year.

“That’s less than one a day,” she told the board. “More importantly, the culture and the climate of the building has changed with a focus on academics.”

As for the future of the program, Cohlhepp told the board that staff will continue to review data and implement new strategies.

“We are going to tackle a little more proactively some of the bullying issues,” she said. “This is something we are very proud of at the school, and both students and teachers worked very hard in establishing this.”

In other news, work on a number of summer projects around the district was completed. Sandycreek and Victory Elementary Schools received upgrades to their fire alarm systems, bleacher railings were installed in the stadium, both the high school locker rooms and gym were painted in preparation for new bleachers, steps were replaced at Victory and carpeting was placed in the high school.

The board also awarded and transferred several teachers in the area:

— Connie Palmer was awarded a fifth-grade position at Sandycreek. she previously worked sixth grade.

— Mark Burkhart was awarded a sixth-grade position at Sandycreek. He is transferring from learning support.

— Suzanne Beach was awarded a fourth-grade position at Sandycreek. She previously worked third grade.

The Franklin Area School District board meets again Monday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m.