Superintendent on RTP
Howard B. Hyde, Superintendent
Evart Public Schools, Evart, Michigan
Howard Hyde is the first superintendent to have all the schools in his district accredited in the Responsible Thinking Process. Evart Public Schools, with the complete support of their school board, and all the district administrators, have worked hard to achieve this goal. Howard contributed the following to Chapter 19 in Discipline For Home And School, Book One, Third Edition. Ed Ford:
Working my way up the ranks at Evart Public Schools as assistant principal, principal, and now superintendent, I have witnessed both lows and highs of student discipline. I still have nightmares about the old days, with students sitting outside my office with their discipline referrals, waiting for me to hand out the magic potion to treat their problems. We reached a point where neither parents, students, teachers, nor administrators were happy with our approach to student discipline.
The level of unhappiness was such that a Behavioral Expectations Committee was created to consider possible changes and improvements. About the same time, we had completed a new high school (9-12), and we were able to create a grade 5-8 middle school that was housed in a separate building. The time seemed right to make a change.
In October 1997, our Behavioral Committee heard a presentation on the Responsible Thinking Process. The committee was very impressed with the concept. Our middle school principal and staff decided to pilot the process, beginning in mid-January 1998. The pilot was very successful. I think allowing one school to pilot the process is the best way to get started. We had a chance to correct some of our mistakes, and the other schools had a chance to see how well RTP was working, thus creating a greater buy-in.
In April 1998, a presentation was made to our Board of Education on RTP, based on our experience at the pilot school. The presenters stressed that RTP creates mutual respect among teachers, administrators, other school staff, and students, while teaching student responsibility. The Board of Education was sold by the pilot results, and by the idea that students must be taught to understand that they are responsible for their own behavior and there are consequences for inappropriate behavior.
In May 1998, the Board of Education approved the Responsible Thinking Process district-wide. We are currently using RTP in the elementary school, middle school, high school, and alternative high school, and on our buses. In August 1998, Ed Ford came to Evart and presented the whole process to our faculty and staff. Parents were invited to come to the meeting as well. We were very fortunate to have great local media coverage of the process.
Once the process had been explained to faculty, staff and students, we were underway.
We noticed improvements instantly, and there were very few complaints. In the first few weeks, I did have a few complaints from parents; I explained the process to them, emphasizing that when children disrupt in classes, they keep others from learning and teachers from teaching. I also explained to them that when a child decides not to disrupt, and the child works out a plan to negotiate with the teacher, the child is free to return to class.
From the school board members on down, we all stuck together and held to our plan. As superintendent, I found it very helpful, when dealing with parents, to use this statement: "Your child decided to disrupt, and it's against the rule to disrupt in class. The RTC teacher will teach your child how to create a plan to be successful. Once there is a plan, your child is welcome to return to class."
We have now completed five full years during which we have used RTP district-wide. I have been in the district for 15 years. RTP has made a night-and-day difference. The mutual respect between staff and students is very evident. The atmosphere is very calm, and our buildings are noticeably cleaner. We have had very few fights. I believe that the negotiations between teachers and students have helped both understand each other better. Students feel very comfortable talking with teachers about their problems.
We have not had to replace a retired counselor in the high school; currently, one counselor is adequate for 380 students. I can't recall a single school board member complaint since we began using RTP. There has been a 25% drop in students going to our alternative school.
We know that our implementation of this process is not perfect. Our administrators and teachers are constantly working together to look at ways to tweak or improve our use of the process.
We continue to in-service new employees with regard to RTP. We also periodically invite Ed Ford to return to our district to evaluate our process and to offer suggestions.
As superintendent, it has been wonderful to watch our district grow and improve. A great deal of the success is directly related to RTP. We have had staff from many other districts come through our buildings to observe the process. Our high school and middle school principals have been named RTP Associates by RTP, Inc. They are quick to point out that the success of RTP is directly related to the amount of buy-in from administrators and board members.
At the end of last year, one of our young teachers took a new teaching job out-of-state. She had been hired here back when we went district-wide with RTP. Her biggest concern upon leaving was "What if my new school doesn't use RTP?" Our response was to suggest that she talk with her new district's administrators about the process.