Along the hallways and in classrooms at Marshall Elementary School hang posters and bulletin boards espousing the virtues of Glendale Unified’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, otherwise known as PBIS.
One sign in a main walkway lists 63 guidelines and suggestions for students in regards to respecting others, acting kindly and being responsible when in a classroom, playground, cafeteria, auditorium, amphitheater, restroom, hallway, courtyard, library or computer lab.
Such a system, which even some district officials acknowledged they don’t fully understand, can easily cause confusion or tension.
However, school board members, students and faculty gathered Monday morning to celebrate the program’s success at Marshall because the elementary school became the district’s first gold-medal winner lauded by the California PBIS Coalition.
The ceremony featured performances by the Glendale High marching band and color guard and included a visit by Carla Walker, the school’s former principal.
“I’m so proud of the whole school, and it was a fabulous morning,” said Walker, who retired this past summer after seven years in charge of Marshall and 30 years with the district. “The entire school — the teachers, staff and students — they worked so hard for this, and they deserve the attention.”
According to the coalition, PBIS “is a systemic approach to teaching and managing behavior in schools” that focuses on positive reinforcement rather than punishment.
“One of the things that we do with PBIS is to try to accentuate the positive, to recognize the good things that people are doing because we understand that by recognizing the positive, people are going to want to replicate that, they’re going to want to be a part of that positive culture,” said Craig Lewis, the district’s PBIS coordinator.
Marshall fourth-grader Charlize Gebran admitted she doesn’t really grasp PBIS, but she understands kindness and generosity and said she appreciates being acknowledged for her actions.
Gebran said she has held the door open for classmates and helped friends pick up trash near the lunch area.
“The teachers have told us we’re doing a good job, and it feels nice,” Gebran said.
Student Meri Yepremyan proudly held up one of her Marshall Terrific Tiger dollars, earned by completing a kind deed or act, which can be redeemed for a variety of prizes.
The fifth-grader said she’s been a teacher’s assistant for three years, helping instructors prepare for class.
Yepremyan said she looks forward to some class activities, like watching movies, earned through PBIS.
“The more good things we do, the more fun we have,” she said. “It makes you want to do more.”
“The recognition for an individual student or for a class can lead to other rewards,” Lewis said. "[Students] can have parties. Sometimes they have a movie, popcorn and movies, that sort of thing, in the afternoon after school.”
He added, “They even have dance parties in the classroom.”
Marshall was part of the district’s second group of schools to adopt PBIS before the 2015-16 school year. Other local schools that adopted the program that year were Balboa, Columbus and Muir elementary schools and Rosemont Middle School.
Marshall was the only district school to earn gold-medal status by the California PBIS coalition. Overall, there are four grades of recognition with platinum being the highest, followed by gold, silver and bronze.
Twenty-seven district schools earned silver status, while three were in the bronze category.