Pandemic aside, Payson schools have once again earned national recognition for going all out to make kids feel safe and emotionally connected.

Payson schools seven years ago embraced the Capturing Kids’ Hearts initiative, which stresses developing strong relationships among students, staff, and parents.

The district last week learned that for the second year in a row it ranks as a National Showcase for implementing the relationship-based philosophy — perhaps most associated in the public mind with affectionate greetings on campus.

All the school sites — Payson Elementary, Julia Randall Elementary, Rim Country Middle School, Payson High School, and Payson Center for Success High School, made the grade.

Only eight districts nationwide scored well enough on the evaluation to rank as showcase districts.

“Our teachers, support staff, students, and administrators are to be commended for this outstanding accomplishment,” said Superintendent Linda Gibson.

The program required teachers and staff to first learn how to use the tools and intervention developed by the program, which includes way to ensure students feel connected to adults as well as creating a classroom environment that encourages learning. That stems from teaching kids to replace judgment with acceptance as much as possible.

Since 1990, campuses across the country have experienced improvements with Capturing Kids’ Hearts tools and techniques.

“Judging and feelings of being judged are replaced with acceptance and real connectedness to the school,” said Gibson.

The program has helped decrease discipline problems and hopefully boost classroom learning.

“Through the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools awards, the Flippen Group recognizes and celebrates campuses that go the extra mile each day, building an environment where students and staff feel safe and connected,” according to a release from the Flippen Group, which developed and monitors the program.

The evaluation relied on online surveys of students and staff as well as data measuring attendance, discipline, climate/culture and academics.

The pandemic presented unusual problems when it came time to both implement — and assess — the use of the program in schools. The Flippen Group reviewed the online surveys and made “virtual” visits to nominated campuses, as well as collecting data. Some of the normal data — like standardized test scores — wasn’t available due to the changes in the way schools operated this year.

“PUSD would like to thank the Payson community for their continued support and recognizes that it takes a community to raise a child,” said Gibson.

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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(1) comment

Phil Mason

I am duly impressed. The government school district that is funded to provide first class education for the minds of our youth wins an award for capturing their hearts. While that is commendable as an ancillary goal, it is bothersome when the primary goal is an abject failure. PUSD FAILS to graduate 32% of their charges, FAILS to improve their ability to compete in the new global business world and FAILS to adequately improve teacher salaries.

Maybe we can have the churches whose primary responsibility is to reach the hearts of our youth - improve the mental educational status of our youth. I would bet that the churches would be more successful in preparing the youth for adult life.

PS: How do you receive a national award for, quote:"most associated . . .with affectionate greetings on campus.",, when the school experience was virtual?? Also, the organization that bestows the award evaluated the system virtually!!

Maybe PUSD could allocate some of the over 9 MILLION dollars on their balance sheet to address their failure to improve educational outcomes for our families.

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