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SES principal to trustees: Conscious discipline holds potential benefits for SWSC


Sullivan Elementary School Principal Sam Phegley hopes Southwest School Corp. will adopt a new method for curbing behavioral problems in a constructive way.

“I’ve just found that the kids that end up getting detentions, they are the same kinds that are out on detention every week,” she told the SWSC Board of Trustees during a meeting Wednesday. “We do not see a change in their behavior. Students that are in-school suspended typically don’t change their behavior. So I want to save them all. I want them all to have a chance to be successful ...”

The method she spoke about, conscious discipline, relies on working with students to assess what factors are leading to disruptive behavior and, then, to provide techniques to cope with emotions and fear and to provide a sense of community with their classes.

“We started with conscious discipline almost a year and half ago,” Phegley said, mentioning her special education department had been the impetus to starting the method. “Kids are struggling with problems you wouldn’t think they’d have.

“You know, they look like they come from good homes. Their parents dress them well, they don’t appear to have any issues at all,” she continues. “But sometimes you find out there are things going on at home. That’s why they come to school with anxiety or having a bad day or whatever.”

In particular, the method provides ways for students to process their situations and move from their survival mindset — a fight or flight response to their situation — to the executive functioning mindset, during which they can better process information and make complex decisions.

“There are kids that come into school every day who are functioning in a survival state when they enter the building,” Phegley said. “They may not have had food at night. Their parents may not even be watching them …

“Those kids that scream at us, or they cuss us out, or throw a desk or throw a chair, that’s their way of communicating because they don’t have access to their executive state, where they can think clearly and use words,” she continued.

If they can successfully move students from survival mode to executive function, Phegley believes that both behavioral problems will decrease and classroom performance will improve.

“That’s what we want kids in when they take a test …” she said. “And that’s one piece of conscious discipline is research shows that, if we address these things, you know, if we’re concerned at all about test scores and functioning, that’s all going to improve if we meet those needs. Because they can’t think in your classroom if they have other things going on.”

In other business:

• The trustees approved the 2020-21 school calendar, with the following dates included: Fall Break, Oct. 12 to 16; Winter Break, Dec. 21 to Jan. 1; Spring Break, March 22 to 26, 2021; and graduation on May 29, 2021.

• The board also agreed to sell an old alignment system from its shop classes at the SHS FFA Auction on April 6.

• SWSC Superintendent Chris Stitzle informed the board that SWSC, Northeast School Corp. and Dugger Union Community School Corp. will host a launch event for their joint CEO program, which will allow students to student entrepreneurship and business while partnering with local businesses.

• The board approved the retirements of Carlisle Elementary and Middle schools librarian Paulette Perkinson, as well as the resignations of the Sullivan High School head and assistant cheer coaches Lindsey Pinkston and Christina Pearison.

• The board also approved the following personnel hires at SHS: Matt Rinck, girls volleyball B-team; Ryan Vernelson, PE aide; Trey Powell, football volunteer; Jake Combs, football volunteer; Kyle Perkinson, softball volunteer; Jeff Moore, head boys varsity basketball; Doug Boyd, “B” team boys basketball; Kentz Pirtle, boys basketball volunteer; Brent Kelley, boys basketball volunteer; Julie Meeks, head coach girls varsity basketball; Cobie Harrison, B-team girls basketball; Caelan Jones, girls basketball volunteer; Kyle Perkinson, girls basketball volunteer; Roy Monroe, head wrestling coach; Montie Tomey, assistant wrestling coach; Wes Bedwell, wrestling volunteer; Michele Bedwell, wrestling volunteer; Jade McCammon, wrestling volunteer; Zach Walker, wrestling volunteer; and Travis Hancock, wrestling volunteer.

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