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Excelsior schools awarded 1st annual statewide PBS honor

More than two dozen teachers and administrators from the Excelsior Springs School District attended the MO SW-PBS Summer Training Institute at Tan-Tar-A in Lake Ozark from June 11-13, and the trip was worthwhile not just for what they learned, but what they received.

The Excelsior Springs School District received the first annual Dr. Mary Richter Missouri School-wide Positive Behavior Support District of Distinction Award.

This award, named for the founding director of Missouri School-wide Positive Behavior Support, recognizes schools, programs or districts that exemplify the ideals, principles, and practices of positive behavior support.

According to Vincent Spallo, principal of Excelsior Springs High School, every school in the Excelsior Springs School District was represented at the institute; in addition to the statewide award, every school in the district was also recognized for their efforts within the Kansas City region.

“Our school district has been part of School-wide Positive Behavior Support for years,” Spallo said. “The high school has used it for the shortest time, but even that’s been five years. The other schools are all for longer times.”

Spallo said that it’s good to be recognized—he pointed out that in addition to the honors listed above, this year Excelsior Springs Middle School, Westview Elementary and Lewis Elementary were all honored with gold awards and Elkhorn Elementary and ESHS were recognized with silver awards—but that the real benefit of PBS lies in what it does for students and the school in general.

“PBS creates a process for creating an effective school,” Spallo explained. “The structure focuses on both academic and social success in the learning environment.”

He added that what he really likes is that it’s a three-tiered model.

“One size does not fit all,” he explained.

A letter to ESSD administrators from Diane J. Feeley, Tier 2/3 Consultant for Missouri SW-PBS, explained the significance of the Richter award.

“This award, indeed, is a distinctive honor, and the recipient was selected after a thorough review of all nominations by Dr. Tim Lewis’ doctoral students at the University of Missouri,” the letter read.

Feeley continued: “This award was originally created to honor Dr. Richter prior to her eventual retirement…As you heard last week from Dr. George Sugai, one of our national PBIS co-directors, Missouri’s work with SW-PBS is recognized not only throughout the U.S. but also worldwide. Dr. Richter not only helped to start Missouri SW-PBS, but over her time as director, she put the systems in place, backed by research and data, that allowed the initiative to flourish across the state.  With her recent passing, it was even more special that you received the first award from Mary’s daughters and Dr. Lewis, who is also one of our national PBIS co-directors.”

Feeley also noted her own personal connection to the award and the woman for whom it is named.

“Dr. Richter was not only my supervisor, but she was my friend,” she wrote. “The award is intended to recognize districts that exemplify her spirit, love, and dedication to SW-PBS.  As I wrote to Dr. Lewis in an e-mail last week, in my humble opinion, a more worthy district could not have been selected.  While you have strong systems, data, and practices in each school and district-wide, your staff is continuously asking, ‘how can we make SW-PBS even more effective?’  You are to the point where ongoing monitoring for sustainability is a primary priority – what a good place to be after years of extremely hard work.”

Feeley also said that ESSD deserves praise in part for how they relate to others in the PBS system.

“Another hallmark of the Excelsior Springs School District, in my opinion, is that you are humble in what you accomplish, and in that humbleness you not only seek to learn from others, but you gladly share what you are doing via electronic media, presentations, publications, hosting school visits, and sharing resources,” Feeley wrote. “As Mary would say, you are ‘spot on’ with your work to support students and improve outcomes.”

Spallo said that the award was started, in part, because Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education wanted to recognize program participants above and beyond the bronze, silver and gold awards. The application process has been going on since about February, he said.

In addition to the honor given by DESE to the Excelsior Springs School District, Spallo said an individual school—an elementary school in the North Kansas City School District—was also recognized.

The award will be displayed at ESSD’s central office, 300 W. Broadway Ave.


By Eric Copeland •

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