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Trenton elementary, middle schools receive PBIS recognition

By Crystal Burns


Trenton Elementary and Trenton Rosenwald Middle school leaders are celebrating their respective Bronze and Gold distinctions as model/demonstration schools for Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS).

According to, PBIS is an evidence-based, three-tiered framework for improving and integrating all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day. It is a way to support everyone – especially students with disabilities –  to create the kinds of schools where all students are successful.

PBIS is a commitment to addressing student behavior through systems change. When it’s implemented well, students achieve improved social and academic outcomes, schools experience reduced exclusionary discipline practices, and school personnel feel more effective.

TRMS is the first Trenton Special School District school to adopt PBIS. Principal Paul Pillow brought it with him from Arlington Elementary School in Jackson when he joined the TRMS staff in 2014. Assistant principal Kelly Vonner was hired in 2015 and served on the school’s PBIS team during her first year in Trenton.

Vonner took over as lead during the next school year and is fully embraced PBIS.

“Kelly is the pioneer in the district for this,” TSSD Director of Schools Tim Haney told the school board at its Feb. 11 meeting. “Kelly drives PBIS at the middle school.”

TRMS is one of four schools in West Tennessee to earn Gold recognition. In order to be eligible, schools must have all three PBIS tiers in place. Vonner explained that Tier I involves the entire school. Tier 2 begins identifying and helping individual students. In Tier 3, students and their mentors set individual goals.

Vonner said about 85% of the school’s population falls into Tier 1. The smaller percentage of students are the ones that need more help.

Tier 2 students earn and collect points in order to receive rewards, which for TRMS students include their favorite Sonic drinks. Tier 3 students may earn coupons that give them extra time in P.E. or other incentives they choose.

“Everybody likes incentives,” Vonner said. “The goal is to look for the positives – to see what someone is doing right and acknowledge it.”

Consequences of poor choices and bad behavior don’t go away under PBIS, Vonner said. Instead, teachers recognize that the conversation with the student before he/she punishes the child is equally important as the consequence.

“It’s being aware of all that comes into learning,” she said. “Learning is a part of behavior.”

Vonner, Pillow, Leah Jean Rollins, Elvie Patterson, Brooke Smith, Ca’Rae Tubbs, Rachel Hayes, Kerry Smith, Leigh Boyce, and Bryce Appleton make up the TRMS PBIS team.

Elementary School – A 12-member PBIS team created the Do Right program at TES. Students are awarded points for the meeting schoolwide expectations of Take Responsibility, Expect Excellence, and Show Respect. Students may spend their points on prizes/experiences in the Do Right store. There are also monthly parties called Do Right Day that students can attend if they have met the expectations and have had no office referrals.

“We’re very proud of our Bronze level status for this year,” Wilkes told the school board Feb. 11. “We’re really proud we met all criteria to become a model/demonstration school, but we’ve also made the program our own. We’ve seen a positive change in our students in their behavior, in their character.”

Wilkes said that in just the second year of full PBIS implementation, the culture of the school has improved.

The TES PBIS team includes Wilkes, co-chairs Holly Knott and Tricia Wozny, Natalie Timbes, Ani Staser, Micah Williams, Amy Crenshaw, Amy Woodward, Heather Mosley, Heather Poore, and Ronny Criswell.

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