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Washington honored for positive programs

Cloquet School Board members learned Monday that Washington Elementary School is one of a few schools across the state recognized as a sustaining exemplary school for its ongoing efforts with positive behavioral interventions and supports, or PBIS.

Washington was first recognized for its program in 2020. Students and parents at Washington don’t call it PBIS, though — for them it’s “Purple PRIDE.” PRIDE stands for having a Positive attitude, being Respectful, Including others and Doing your best Everyday. It is essentially a code of conduct, explained principal Robbi Mondati in 2020, implemented by teaching kids in a positive way what they expect, rather than reacting to what they don’t want.

That practice of rewarding desired behavior extends throughout the school in big and small ways.

“When we catch kids doing the right thing, or making good choices, they can earn Purple PRIDE slips, and then we do weekly drawings,” Mondati said. “We also have the grade levels competing against each other, and they get to pick spirit days throughout the year. Kids also work toward the ‘principal’s challenge.’” The kids get to choose her “challenge” each year and work toward making it happen, which has included kissing a pig and being duct-taped to the gym wall.

One important area of focus for the program is on decreasing disparities in discipline, which have historically had negative impacts on educational outcomes for students of color, American Indian students and students with disabilities.

Just like PBIS gives teachers tools to work with students, it also gives students tools to handle life, Mondati said, adding that the number of disciplinary infractions has declined over the years. Kids are getting it.

The schools that received recognition are leaders in supporting positive behavior, improving school climate and increasing student achievement.

School Board members also took care of a number of housekeeping items during Monday’s meeting, the first meeting of the fiscal year and the only meeting during July.

The Pine Knot News was again designated the district’s official newspaper by unanimous vote as it is the only newspaper covering Cloquet with a local office, the first requirement for choosing a legal paper.

Board members will continue with the same adopted schools and voted to remain on the same committees with one exception: Hawk Huard will now serve on the buildings and grounds committee instead of Ken Scarbrough. Huard is a retired school custodian.

Also Monday, the board closed the meeting to discuss allegations against an employee, meeting with Cloquet High School principal Steve Battaglia. Superintendent Michael Cary told the Pine Knot News that the board reviewed the administration’s actions regarding the employee situation and determined that no further action was necessary.

Board chair Ted Lammi said the previous meeting, which was closed for the semi-annual evaluation of superintendent Cary, resulted in “good discussion and feedback from and for Dr. Cary.”