FLMS named model school

Fort Loudoun Middle School Principal Patrick Bethel, center, watches sixth-graders Jayda Newman and Arabella Geames work on an in-class assignment.

Fort Loudoun Middle School was recently announced as a model school by the Tennessee Behavior Supports Project from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

This marks the first time the school has been recognized as gold level by the group funded through the Tennessee Department of Education.

“They’ve phased it in, so you have a tier one, a tier two and a tier three, and the state just released for the East Tennessee region the gold level,” Patrick Bethel, FLMS principal, said. “So this is the first year the gold level has been a possibility from the state. We’ve been a silver for the past two years.”

The program provides materials, training and tools to support staff, teachers and administrators in the implementation of Response to Intervention-Behavior.

“Schools that implement RTI2-B can expect a decrease in the number of office discipline referrals, a decrease in suspensions, an increase in academic achievement and more time for teachers to teach, students to learn and administrators to run their schools efficiently and effectively,” the website reads.

FLMS has experienced such change.

Bethel referenced that four or five years ago the school had several discipline issues.

“As a faculty we all kind of got together and we said, ‘Here’s our issues. What can do we do to fix them?’” Bethel said. “So we just problem-solved and went to a training that summer and we just saw there were some things that were just on us, it wasn’t on our kids. We didn’t have clear expectations. Expectations in one class were not the same as another.

“... We just wiped it all out and started all over,” he added. “So we’re very clear with all of our kids, ‘These are the expectations.’ We go through the procedures and we do that every break. We just reinforce it over and over so our kids know exactly what’s expected and it’s made a tremendous difference.”

When visitors from other school districts come to FLMS, students with the Braves Ambassador program lead facility tours. That stood out for Michael Morrow, TBSP educational consultant.

“That is phenomenal. We don’t have anyone else who does that, but we have had schools and full-on district administrations come in and those kids have walked them around and it’s a pretty powerful thing to see,” Morrow said.

FLMS hosted 22 school districts last year, including a Georgia system with a student population of about 50,000, Bethel said.

Buy-in by students and staff has been vital.

“It’s just a good positive environment,” Morrow said. “When you go into that building there’s a sense of calm and togetherness and they just do things that are there to support people.”

Being at gold level is big, Morrow said, noting only five school are listed in East Tennessee and just 10 statewide.

“The enthusiasm and the willingness to work together to support kids is remarkable there,” he said.

The school has this year implemented student-to-student high-fives, which Bethel said has gone well.

“So we’ve got a mailbox out there and our students will write a high-five,” Bethel said. “For example, you’re a new student, you just come into the building and another student comes up and invites you to come eat lunch with them. That student has the opportunity not only to say ‘thank you’ but write a high-five to just kind of share that.

“Those will be put in a drawing and students come out and we do an assembly every 4 1/2 weeks and share all those,” he added. “They may come out and get to participate in a game or they may win an Amazon gift card, Kindle, just something fun.”

Students also give teachers high-fives.

“It shows that our faculty and staff is going above and beyond for our students because it’s not an easy level to reach,” Bethel said. “We do a lot of things with the mentoring students and extracurricular activities that we do with our kids. So it just shows that their heart and soul is in our school.”

The school will be recognized at a Partners in Education conference in January in Nashville.

“It’s been a 180-degree difference,” Bethel said.