MES Principal Donna Bennett accepts the certificate for the PBIS Distinguished status from Timi Hunt, of the Georgia Department of Education.

For Donna Bennett to sing and dance dressed as Madonna, teachers knew the celebration was on Wednesday at Maxwell Elementary School. The festive event at the end of the school day celebrated MES achieving a key milestone and being recognized by the Georgia Department of Education.

Maxwell is now in it’s fifth year of implementing PBIS (the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support initiative created by the state department of education). In the fourth year, last year, the school achieved Distinguished status - the pinnacle of success. Although the achievement was revealed earlier this year, the celebration marked the delivery of the certificate and also the school’s achieving a five star climate rating, a metric released when the annual CCRPI scores are announced. MES is at 99.5 percent.

Both honors tie back into school atmosphere and the behavior of the students.

Bennett explains PBIS is a program and of the 2,200 public schools in Georgia, 1,200 are participating in PBIS.  

“Of the 1,200, 79 are distinguished. We are one of just 79, which is huge,” Bennett added. That achievement places MES in the top 6 percent of PBIS schools in Georgia.

The school started at the first tier and worked up from there. The classifications are Installing, Emerging, Operational and then Distinguished.

“Everybody starts on the very bottom level. You don’t skip levels. You have goals that you must meet for the different levels. Distinguished right now is the highest level you can get,” the principal said.

“We all had the opportunity. But, you have to form a team. There are a lot of things you have to do and there are levels,” she said. “We already had some of the things in place here just because of good practices.”

As far as the five star rating, this was MES’ second year.

“We were celebrating two things today. We were celebrating our five star climate rating. That is a rating that comes from parents, the community, and the faculty and the staff. They include in there your infractions, your attendance, your faculty attendance, there’s a lot of different things that go into that,” Bennett said.

While in the festive assembly, teachers and staff heard from several individuals connected to PBIS.

“Six percent of the guys that practice PBIS in Georgia, that’s 6 percent that are distinguished. And, you guys are part of that,” said Erik Hardison, McDuffie County behavioral specialist.

“You guys are setting the standard for every school to follow.”

He stressed the significance of Maxwell and how the school establishes the behavior standards for the youngest students in the district.

“Please don’t lose sight of how important and impactful this is because the kids that leave here and go onward have already started to show a better and more positive behavior across the gamut,” he said.

Paul Bloodworth and Rose Carraway, CSRA RESA PBIS specialists, also praised the school for its success as the y addressed teachers and staff.

“We feel the love when we walk in the building. We can feel it the minute we walk through the door,” Bloodworth said. “That is a testament to you. That is a testament to the way you are operating this building, and you are to be commended for that.”

Timi Hunt, PBIS program specialist for the Georgia Department of Education Office of School Safety & Climate, delivered the certificate for the Distinguished rating.

“It is such an honor to congratulate all of you for the work that you do to create a feeling that people just want to be here,” said Hunt.

Bennett concluded by  stressing the importance of how the MES team pulled together to achieve this.

“This is about us. It’s about MES. It’s about our family. It’s about who we are. Not every day is rosy. Not every day is a rainbow. Not every day is butterflies,” she said. “But every week is. Every month is. Every quarter is. Every half year is and every year is,” said Bennett.

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