Planning Center Proves Proactive
Washington Middle School has a caring place for students to have a listening ear and the help of a compassionate adult – their planning center, which has been operational for three years. Paraprofessional Kim Rizzo works with Washington students in the planning center, which is a proactive setting designed to help students problem-solve, develop appropriate school and classroom behaviors, and reduce the need for removal from the classroom. All Jamestown elementary and middle schools have planning centers.
“I’m a huge believer in the planning center and know that a place like this can really make a difference in a child’s life. I try to make the planning center a positive, caring place where kids can receive extra attention,” said Mrs. Rizzo who is also the PBIS Tier II Co-coach at Washington School and studies behavior data to see where kids might need extra help. “I’m that extra adult connection that many kids so desperately need. I’m also a resource to get them help from a school counselor, psychologist or a health professional. Our goal is to help the kids get back into the classroom as quickly as possible.”
Washington Middle School’s Planning Center is part of the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) giving extra support to individual students based on their specific needs. For example, a student may transfer into the school and have difficulty adjusting or another student might need some time to talk to someone after a behavior concern. Students might just need to catch up on schoolwork.
Planning centers are not a place to send students as punishment; they are not in-school suspension rooms. They are not long-terms placements. The length of time can vary from minutes, to hours or as long as it takes to get the student back to class. It all depends on what the student needs help in to make them successful in school.
“I tell people all the time, there are not bad kids but sometimes kids can make poor choices,” said Mrs. Rizzo. “I like listening to the kids and helping them make better choices in life.”
Using Planning Centers helps students learn new skills on how to deal with their social emotional issues, keeps classrooms undisturbed and increase instructional time, changes school’s mindset from punishment to helping to change behavior, decreases the number of suspensions, improves grades and attendance, and helps students transition back into school.
All paraprofessionals who work in a Planning Center attend mandatory training sessions, help students use appropriate behaviors and reinforce skills taught by staff, provide assistance by collecting and making data entries to a child’s planning center plan as prescribed by the team, communicate with staff and the principals regarding children assigned to planning centers and those who will work with students in the planning center, and provide support for and receive support from the Child Study Team regarding students assigned to Planning Centers.