Friendly Hills, Moreland staff focus on school culture
Friendly Hills, Moreland staff focus on school culture
Posted on 08/20/2013

Friendly Hills classroomStaff from Moreland Arts and Health Sciences Magnet School and Friendly Hills Middle School are preparing for the start of school a little differently this year. In addition to preparing their classrooms and working on lesson plans, groups of staff from those schools are participating in training sessions to implement Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) strategies throughout their schools.  

PBIS is a national initiative that helps train teachers and principals to establish positive school environments that set clear expectations for student behavior, and identify alternatives to disciplinary actions. The PBIS program also emphasizes the collection and analysis of data to help staff make decisions and solve problems. In Minnesota, the state’s Department of Education facilitates the PBIS training.

Research shows that students perform better academically and make better behavior choices when their school environment feels positive and predictable. Schools in Minnesota that have implemented PBIS strategies have reported improved school culture, increased instructional time and fewer disciplinary incidents and suspensions. 

Moreland and Friendly Hills are each training teams of 8-10 staff members — principals, teachers from various grade levels, specialists, counselors and more — who will return to their schools this fall to coach other staff to use PBIS strategies. 

In order to participate in the PBIS training, a school must secure support from at least 80 percent of its staff members before applying. Moreland principal Eric Bradley said many of his staff were familiar with PBIS techniques.

"As a school we are very excited to participate in the PBIS training and to begin working toward becoming a high functioning PBIS school," Bradley said. "At Moreland we strive to provide consistent structures for all, and to affirm and support our students for their hard work and good choices. Given this, the PBIS framework and practices will be a great fit for our school."

PBIS is not new to District 197. Garlough Environmental Magnet School started their two-year PBIS training and implementation period in 2010. Sue Powell, principal of Garlough, said that with the PBIS training, her staff and students have benefitted from setting consistent expectations and using a common language regarding behaviors. For example, Garlough students learn their five expectations for behavior through the Garlough Guidelines Rap — and recite it regularly:

RESPONSIBILITY means I’m taking charge of me!
EFFORT means you try, working hard to reach the sky!
Staying SAFE at school and play, keeps us smiling every day!
R-E-S-P-E-C-T respecting you, respecting me!
Finally, KINDNESS is the key-spreading peace and harmony!
Know it. Live it. Shout out our theme. We learn together on the Garlough Team!

A key component of establishing the school guidelines is ensuring that students understand how to meet the expectations. 

“As adults, we could not hold kids responsible for things that we didn't explicitly teach them,” Powell said. “Now, we explicitly teach students how to stand in line, how to wash their hands, how many pieces of paper to take to dry their hands, where to put the paper, etcetera. We teach everything, then hold all students and staff to that standard.” 

Garlough staff also focus on noticing students’ positive behaviors and reinforcing good examples of respectful actions. 

These are just some of the strategies Moreland and Friendly Hills staff explored during their initial PBIS training sessions last week. Each school’s staff will participate in additional trainings during the next two years. 

Despite the intensity of their training sessions, staff members left feeling energized, Friendly Hills principal Joni Hagebock said. 

“We're excited about what we can do this year to make Friendly Hills an even better place to be a student and staff member,” she said.

Moreland and Friendly Hills received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education to cover the costs of PBIS training. Learn more about PBIS in Minnesota at