A character education program designed to encourage good behavior at Westwood Regional Middle School has lowered the number of discipline problems at the school and become an example used statewide, according to school officials.
The Positive Behavior Support in Schools (PBSIS) program is used in schools across New Jersey as a collaboration between the Department of Education and Rutgers, according to Paula Raigoza, a teaching and consultation specialist with the program. Westwood Regional's program, now in its third year, is used as an example for other schools around the state, she said.
"PBSIS at Westwood Middle School is the perfect example of how to encourage positive behavior," Raigoza said.
The program aims to make students "accountable, empathetic and successful," according to Suzanne Ziegler, a Westwood Regional Middle School teacher who has helped organize it from the start.
Teachers brought students around the school Tuesday to explain the behavior that is expected of them in different parts of the school, like classes, halls and the cafeteria. When teachers see a student do something that exemplifies the kind of behavior the program aims to encourage, they reward the student with a paper "high-five," which they can enter into weekly and monthly raffles.
"We're just recognizing all the positive things we see," Ziegler said.
The school also held a PBSIS kick-off celebration with sports and dancing for students Tuesday. Many schools wait until the end of the year to celebrate, but the school's staff wanted to get their students excited about the program, according to Principal Frank Connelly.
There has been a noticeable drop in discipline problems and bullying since the school instituted PBSIS, Connelly said.
Westwood Regional Board of Education President Roberta Hanlon praised the program and the efforts of the school's staff.
"We've noticed there is a difference in the environment at the middle school," Hanlon said. "It's working."