In 2004, I was the newly appointed Director of Safe Schools for a school district in Arizona. My first task was to find a new classroom management/school discipline program that would be effective for the fourteen diverse campuses. After a lot of investigating, I was thrilled to have found a model that I was confident would be great for kids. Back then it was called PBS (now PBIS). As a young leader in a new position, I approached my superintendent with unbridled excitement about this newfound solution!
My superintendent agreed-it sounded amazing and a perfect fit for our kids; and then he asked me about training, capacity building and sustainability. A little deflated, I returned to my office and called George Sugai. His response changed my professional life. He said that PBS was not yet prepared to meet our programmatic needs, but that I should contact Boys Town. As he explained, the Boys Town Education Model® matched his research on best practice, and Boys Town had been successfully putting the framework into practice for years. They offered formalized training and the structure my district needed.
I contacted Boys Town and immediately found a new mentor and friend. My leadership experience to this point had been less than two years as an assistant principal. I knew nothing about working with outside consultants, developing strategic plans or gaining buy-in from large groups of people. Fortunately, the Boys Town Training team had the experience and the capacity to support and guide me and the district to comprehensive implementation.
Implementing the Boys Town Education Model® (BTEM) district-wide is about building a culture, changing the way students are approached and the way adults think about behavior and discipline.
Our implementation of BTEM included developing our capacity with Well-Managed Schools throughout our general education setting and expanded into alternative settings. My personal passion has always been to help facilitate change for the most challenging students. In 2004, when my journey with Boys Town began, we also opened an alternative education school for students who would otherwise be facing long term suspension or expulsion. It grew over time into one part of the continuum of services for student with behavior issues. Students as young as five were able to attend at parent request as an intensive behavior intervention opportunity. For this program, the Boys Town Specialized Classroom Management model was adopted. Like Well-Managed Schools, the success of that program can be measured with quantitative data. But the best data is when former students, now adults reach out to say thank you.
As one young man put it recently, “…The way I see it is all that I learned and gained from being at (school) were little seeds being planted … and like most things, they just needed time to grow into a tree and the fruit is good. You are an inspiration to me, the way you helped me and other people is what I aim to do.”
Two years ago, I joined the Boys Town National Training team. I am often asked why I do what I do. It is a lot of traveling; can be exhausting, and leave you feeling like the work is never done. But that is life as an educator. I have been given the time and space to figure out how to best impact the lives of struggling teachers and students across the country. My superintendent refused to give up on any child. He refused to believe that K-8 students were destined to fail. Fortunately, my current role with Boys Town has allowed me to meet more leaders who are just as committed to helping young people. The commitment of adults to put aside their egos, work hard and always put young people before themselves continues to move me. It drives my work. It makes me believe that my decision to transition from public education to Boys Town Training was the right thing to do. This work continues to prove that, if you believe and are willing to make hard decisions, all children can and will succeed, no exceptions!