City embraces ‘The Waupaca Way’
Rec center, library inspired by school program
By Angie Landsverk
After Aaron Jenson heard about the Waupaca School District implementing a program that encourages appropriate behaviors, he wanted Waupaca Recreation Center staff to receive the same training.
In August, some staff members from the rec center and Waupaca Area Public Library received that training and are ready to continue the discussion about how to implement the idea in both departments.
“They’re really lessons to live by for everyone,” said Jenson, Waupaca’s parks and recreation director.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a national, research-based program that establishes expectations for students. It then teaches, models and reinforces those appropriate behaviors school wide.
Wisconsin schools began implementing PBIS in the fall of 2006, and Waupaca Learning Center is in its third full year of implementation.
WLC, one of the school district’s two elementary schools, began implementing PBIS after Principal John Erspamer learned about the program at a conference.
Since then, Waupaca’s middle and high schools also began implementing PBIS, with the district’s other elementary school, Chain O’ Lakes Elementary, now ready to do so.
When WLC decided to implement PBIS, the school’s PBIS coordinator received the appropriate training before putting together the school’s Tier I team.
That team identified the four core values it wanted to focus on at the school: being respectful, responsible, safe and prepared.
Beginning this school year, those values are being called “The Waupaca Way” throughout the school district, giving the schools a common language and identity.
Positive behaviors are being recognized with a reward system called Comet Cash, and parents are encouraged to incorporate “The Waupaca Way” into their homes as well.
“We talk about how parents can do the same thing at home, extend the common language to parents, families, the community,” said Chad Pritzl, the dean of students at WMS.
This year, the middle school is developing its Tier 2 team and seeks to engage families by recruiting parents on that team, he said.
PBIS includes three tiers of support for students.
Middle School Principal Ben Rayome said when there are PBIS accepted behaviors in all areas – schools, families and the community – it works.
“What employer wouldn’t want their employees to be respectful, responsible, safe and prepared?” Erspamer asked. “We’re hopeful it can move into the community.”
In the community
PBIS is begining to move outside the walls of Waupaca’s schools.
Four members of the rec center staff and four members of the library staff received a total of six hours of PBIS training over the course of three days this summer.
Scott Van Ess, who spent the last three school years being the PBIS coordinator at WLC before becoming WHS’s new dean of students this school year, provided the training.
Library Director Peg Burington and Jenson were among the city staff members who participated in it.
Jenson explained why he wants to bring PBIS into his department.
“No. 1, in the (park and rec) strategic plan, which was put together and finalized last October, one of the things was to change the perception of the rec center,” he said.
Some people have a negative perception about who uses the center on weekends, and the rec center staff wants to change that perception.
Jenson’s interest in the program started around the same time the school district introduced the program to the Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club.
Burington, a member of the club, said the Waupaca Community Health Action Team (CHAT) then requested funding for training, through the local Rotary club, to begin bringing the idea into the community.
Burington said the club granted $2,500 and is applying for a matching Rotary District Grant.
ThedaCare has CHAT teams in a number of the communities it serves.
The teams include community members who study problems and develop solutions to change them.
Burington said the Rotary club was impressed with the idea that PBIS teaches core values to children who might not be learning those values at home.
“It allows you to have a code of conduct whether you’re at school, home, the beach or the library,” she said.
The Rotary funding covered the cost of training the eight city employees.
Jenson offered to include library staff members in the training because the rec center and library have many of the same users.
“For us, it is really the language you use when you speak to youth or an adult,” Burington said. “Be respectful, responsible, safe and prepared. I think the values are already there (in the library). Now we have a script.”
She said the script will reinforce the code of conduct the library already has in place.
“We’re moving into it slowly,” Burington said. “It hasn’t been adopted by the (library) board or administration.”
She is thinking about having Van Ess do some training with her staff so they understand the concepts.
They would then brainstorm about how to use the concepts in the library setting with all the patrons, Burington said.
At the rec center, Jenson plans on getting signage similar to what is in place at WLC and WMS but having expectations specific to the center.
Sandy Abraham and John Cross work at the center on weekends and were involved in the PBIS training.
“I have asked Sandy and John to make it their own and really lead this,” Jenson said. “It can help in so many different things and programs in our facilities. We will be meeting monthly.”
Jenson plans to first start incorporating PBIS at the rec center and from there move into working with the coaches.
Burington said the library does not have a lot of misbehavior issues and the program will result in a common language for staff members to use when approaching patrons.
“I think the beautiful thing about what they’re doing in the schools is they’re helping parents. It gives a script on how to deal with misbehavior. Having a culture of respect is a really good thing,” Burington said.