Pickerington schools could expand volunteer monitoring to colleges

A year after recruiting parents to help provide extra sets of eyes in high school hallways, Pickerington Schools leaders hope to expand the program to its high schools.

During the 2021-2022 school year, the district established the Parents on Positivity Patrol at Pickerington High School Central and Pickerington High School North.

As part of the program, adult volunteers were asked to guard the hallways, washrooms and cafeterias of the two high schools. PoPP volunteers do not discipline students, but district officials believe their presence often helps diffuse potential problems and could provide positive engagement among adults and students.

Although the PoPP program only resulted in three regular parent volunteers at Pickerington High School North and two at Pickerington High School Central last year, school staff and administrators say they believe it has had a positive effect on students by helping to build positive relationships with students and redirecting them if they made bad decisions.

The district therefore plans to continue PoPP at the high school level for the 2022-2023 school year, as well as expanding it to Lakeview and Ridgeview colleges.

How PoPP was launched

Alesia Gillison, assistant superintendent of Pickerington Schools and director of studies, said the concept of PoPP was originally born out of a community meeting with parents to discuss overcrowding in school buildings and ways to address the issues. behavioral problems in high school students.

“Parents on Positivity Patrol is an opportunity to enhance our school-family partnerships,” Gillison said. “Parents have always wanted to be more involved in their children’s schools, which was evident at the parent/community meeting held last fall.

“After the 2020-2021 school year, parents, schools, and community members wanted to become more involved in increasing the achievement of all students. After testing the program in secondary schools during Over the past school year, feedback from our current POPs has been overwhelmingly positive, and word has started to spread throughout the community.”

Gillison said the district hopes to recruit more than 20 parents to volunteer at each of the four participating buildings this school year.

Volunteer information is available on the district website at pickerington.k12.oh.us/popp/.

What to expect as a PoPP volunteer

Requirements to be a PoPP parent include passing a background check, receiving at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and completing orientation on safety protocols, exercises, verbal de-escalation and the development of a better understanding of cultural nuances and diversity in the district.

Walkie-talkies and safety plan information are given to each volunteer and kept with them while on duty.

PoPP volunteers are scheduled in their respective buildings based on availability.

“The program works best if PoPPs can commit to spending at least two hours one to two days a week,” she said. “Their primary mission is to be a positive presence in the building, sharing a friendly smile or a welcoming hello. PoPPs work in pairs and can monitor hallways, restrooms, and cafeteria areas.”

The district’s website says PoPP volunteers “build positive relationships with students and help redirect them if they make poor decisions that go against building policies and procedures.”

In addition to ensuring that students use school washrooms for “the right reasons,” the website says PoPPs “keep all communications with students and staff confidential, except for a situation that requires counseling, administration or the attention of a social worker, such as cases of abuse, suicide, harming oneself or others (and) inappropriate behavior.”

“We check the restrooms, we make sure everything is appropriate,” said Luann Bepler-Todd, who volunteered at Central last year. “We make sure that children don’t hide in corners.

“We wear walkie-talkies, and we’re just kind of extra eyes.”

What current PoPP volunteers have to say

Bepler-Todd, like all PoPP volunteers, donned a special vest while volunteering, which she said helped students and staff identify her and her role in the building.

She said she thought the presence of the volunteers was particularly helpful in defusing potential physical clashes between students in crowded hallways between classes and in cafeterias during lunch.

“They need a lot more people, especially during lunch hours,” Bepler-Todd said. “Lunch times are pretty much throughout the day. That’s when there’s chaos just because of overcrowding.”

Bepler-Todd got involved last year, in part because her daughter, Brenna Todd, was a senior at Central and wanted to do what she could to make the year go well and help improve the environment at Central. Her family also owns Dairy Queen franchises in Pickerington and Groveport, and every year they employ students from local schools.

“It’s a good situation if you know the kids,” she said. “If they see you at school and they know you, they behave better.”

These sentiments were echoed by Cornelius McGrady III, who volunteered last year at North and plans to serve as a PoPP volunteer at Central this year.

A retired member of the United States Army, who spent the last 19 years in service as a military police officer before founding the Reynoldsburg Youth Human Trafficking Coalition, McGrady was looking for ways to positively engage with the youth of Pickerington, where he lives.

He heard about PoPP and, after volunteering last year, hopes to incorporate more of his nonprofit group’s services into the district’s student and family resources.

“Child safety initiatives are my priority,” McGrady said. “It’s my passion, my mission.”

Although McGrady does not discipline students, he looks for opportunities during lunch or while students are on their way to class to be a positive influence, as well as to check on their well-being and ensure they have not need additional help from school counselors and others.

“I was interacting with the students over lunch, just mentoring them, asking them what they knew about safe dating, human trafficking, bullying.

“I think some kids were bullied and didn’t realize it. They thought it was just a normal process.”

When McGrady saw bad behavior in North, he often pointed it out to students. He said that building rapport with the students often led them to behave better when he observed them at school and in public.

Positive progress, he said, often made him and the student feel better.

“I think (PoPP) is a good thing, and other parents should get involved,” McGrady said. “It helps when there are connections.

“It’s not like I’m trying to be a tattletale. It’s like, ‘I know you. Tell me what just happened and was it wrong or right? If it was right, how can we improve it? If it was bad, how can we fix it?’ We’re not talking about a 20 minute conversation. Sometimes it was like two minutes.”

Gillison said those interested in volunteering for the 2022-23 school year can start the process by applying through the district’s website.

“When we engage our schools, our parents and our community, we create an ecosystem of safety, support and encouragement for our students,” she said. “Family and community involvement is essential for strong schools and communities. This is our opportunity to engage our parents and community to help our children succeed.”

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