Students Better Behaved This Year At Phs

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Students are better behaved at Payson High School this school year, according a report compiled by principal Roy Sandoval and assistant principal Tim Fruth.

They measure the change in terms of discipline referrals, the forms that teachers fill out when students cut class, are insubordinate, disruptive or fighting.

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"I think we have to dream about the future of this high school," said PHS principal Roy Sandoval. He said he expect some day the community will pass another bond for the high school and maybe it will be rebuilt as a closed campus.

The principals attribute the decrease to several new policies.

The first change took place when teachers began sending discipline referrals home to parents, rather than solely to the principal.

Discipline referrals can lead to detention and community service. School probation officer Michael Snively hands a trash bag to students who are being disciplined. For an hour after the final bell rings, students pick up trash.

"If it's not growing, pick it up," Snively tells them.

Students tell him that picking up a fast food paper wrapper is no fun and picking up someone's half-eaten burger is "just gross."

It's a lesson they don't soon forget. The school benefits with a bit of "campus beautification," and the students think twice before misbehaving again.

Snively gives more than orders as he goes out with the students.

"I ask them what they did to get here and we talk about good choices, bad choices, consequences and rewards," he said.

Off-campus suspension is a last resort.

"Our goal is to have students remain on campus in a learning environment," Sandoval said.

Four-minute passing period between classes instead of the five minutes of past years does not allow students enough mingling time for confrontational activity to take place.

Sandoval, Fruth, and Snively believe that their visible presence on campus, along with that of athletic director Dave Bradley, and school resource officer Les Barr has made a difference.

In the first semester of 2005/06 Officer Barr spent 62 hours on patrol between the middle school, high school and Center for Success. Barr has logged 115 hours in 2006/07.

This school year is Snively's first on campus. He spent 134 hours on patrol.

Patrol does not just mean riding around campus in a police car. It means conversations with students in classrooms. It means assisting with mock trials.

"We walk around with our jackets on that say ‘Police' or ‘Probation,' and it makes a difference," Snively said.

Barr responded to 19 "disorderly conducts" or fights in the first two weeks of school in 2005/06, according to Snively.

According to Sandoval, there have only been three or four fights since school began last July.

Freshmen are not allowed off campus and split lunch periods mean 850 students are not all trying to eat at once or get off campus at the same time.

"You don't have a lot of people gathering in line at a restaurant, that is where many of the (confrontations) would start, then they would bring the argument back to campus," Fruth said.

"They are coming in and out of the parking lot more calmly," Sandoval added.

Currently, the high school has no way of tracking what infraction generates each discipline referrals, but that is about to change with new Discipline Tracker software that will bring them in line with the middle school.

"What we want is information that will allow us to be more strategic in addressing problems," Sandoval said.

PHS covers at least 30 acres. There are 11 different buildings where students attend seven classes each day. The high school's four parking lots border three streets. It is a lot of ground for students to spread out and still remain under the watchful eye of staff, Sandoval said.

Considering a closed campus, like those Fruth recently visited in Pinetop and Show Low, could lessen discipline referrals even more, he said.

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