LaGRANGE — Students at Callaway Middle School are being awarded with cash, prizes and knowledge for their good behavior while on campus — with help from a local bank and area business.
The school is one of six in Troup County taking part in the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program for the year.
According to Melissa Trimeloni, principal of Callaway Middle School, teachers and staff came up with Cavalier Cash to reward students who exhibit the core principles of the school: cooperative, mindful and successful.
“We recognize and acknowledge students who do the right thing,” she explained. “We taught our expectations and good behavior at the beginning of the school year. We’ve taught appropriate behavior in all areas of school: the classroom, hallways, lunchroom and more … kids especially enjoy hearing they did something well.
“The teacher then specifically pinpoints why the student is getting the Cavalier Cash,” Trimeloni continued. “They might say, ‘Thank you for being cooperative in the hallway,’ or ‘Thank you for being mindful of that other student.’”
The cash was used inside the Cavalier store, which was stocked with small items such as school supplies and big-ticket items like bikes and a scooter. Trimeloni said everything was bought by the teachers and staff who work at the school.
Two months ago, Dale Jackson, owner and partner of Jackson Heating and Air, saw the school store and wanted to do more.
“Society seems to have a bad habit of criticizing behavior in school,” Jackson said. “This is my chance to be proactive and promote a policy of good behavior … this is our duty as citizens of Troup County to walk alongside these folks. This is something I believe in.”
Jackson believed in the program so much, he helped fill the store with more items to entice students to act appropriately towards their peers, teachers and staff — and earn their cash. Now the kids can choose from objects like jewelry, nail polish, fishing poles and lures, footballs, basketballs, selfie sticks and a variety of gift cards.
Jackson even donated a new “store front” where the small to medium sized items can be displayed in a fun way, just like in a real shop.
“I don’t like teachers having to fork out money out of their own pockets,” he said. “So if I can come in and help out until the store and program really gets going, I will. Because one day I’ll want to hire these kids who will be cooperative, mindful and successful.”
Trimeloni said the cash can also be used during school cookouts and to attend school talent shows, plays and sporting events.
But the duo also want the children to learn responsibility. So along with CB&T bank, a partner in education, they created the First Cavalier Bank, which made its grand debut Wednesday.
CB&T bank managers and employees joined Jackson and Callaway Middle School and helped students open savings accounts with their Cavalier Cash. Those who created accounts earned 10 percent interest on their deposits.
Trimeloni said students deposited more than $3,000 in Cavalier Cash on Wednesday.
“We hope this will be a way to prolong the excitement and interest of the program, and keep them wanting to earn those bucks,” Jackson said. “The kids who would typically buy the small-ticket items will utilize the bank and save up for the big-ticket items. They’ll use the bank in a more meaningful way.”
Cash and prizes aside, Trimeloni said since the start of the program in August, teachers and staff at Callaway Middle have already seen a positive difference in their students.
“We measure by our discipline referrals. Our team spends time looking at the data,” she explained. “This month we have seen the biggest difference. We have 15 percent less referrals this year than we did at this time last year … and we are holding students to a higher level of accountability for their behavior.
“It’s not only positive behavior in students, but adults too,” Trimeloni added. “Overall, we’ve seen a change in the behavioral culture for the positive within our staff as well.”
Jackson hopes more businesses around the community will also help out schools in their area and witness the promising impact they can have on children’s lives.
“We could not do this without help from Dale stepping up and asking about the program, and then donating his time and energy. Then the bank stepping up and helping out,” explained Trimeloni. “The kids are excited about it. It’s given them an opportunity they’ve never had before in school.
“We reward kids a lot. We want them to know we’re watching, but ultimately we want them to let the program become a part of their character so they do it (good behavior) naturally.”
The other five schools in Troup County also participating in the PBIS program are Berta Weathersbee Elementary, Ethel Kight Elementary, Franklin Forest Elementary, Gardner Newman Middle School and The HOPE Academy.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.