Ring, ring, it’s the principal calling

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cassville principal calls parents of students who do positive things

Jimmie Barton, Cassville middle school principal, started a program called the Wildcat wellness check, for which he sets aside time every two weeks to call parents of students who have been noticed doing positive things.

Barton said the assistant principal and he have their own networks that they go to, outside of their own district. The goal is to hear other ideas from different districts, and bounce things off one another.

“Darren Rhea, assistant principal, picked this idea up from a Republic principal and brought it back,” Barton said. “Basically, it’s a climate survey, and we have tweaked it to fit Cassville middle school and our needs.”

According to Barton, on the survey, the teachers are asked to rate the last couple of weeks, and list any needs that they have.

“I ask the teachers in that survey if they would like to recognize a staff member for doing anything awesome or incredible,” Barton said. “Also, we have a question that asks the teachers to tell me if any student or students are doing something awesome.”

Barton said if the teacher names a student by name, then he makes it a point to call home to let the parents know that a teacher has noticed their child doing something good.

“I read the parent exactly the statement that the teacher puts on the survey,” Barton said. “It is anonymous, so I don’t know which teacher says what. I just tell the parents that the student was noticed by teachers doing something awesome, and that I am calling to let them know what it is.”

Barton said the response has been very positive.

“To be honest, some of the students that I have called on are not students that get a lot of positive recognition — and that makes it even better,” Barton said.

According to Barton, the students are being noticed for random acts of kindness. For example, there are students injured from sports, and there are students that chip in by carrying lunch trays or books without being asked to do it. Teachers notice students who stop to pick up trash when no one has asked them to. Other nominations have been for always being positive in classroom, and being encouraging to other students.

Cassville middle school students are in sixth through eighth grades, so those children are usually 11-14 years old.

“That can be a hard part of middle school, but also the fun and challenging part,” Barton said. “We all had to go through that, and you try to help them understand that they will get through it as well.”

Barton said he has had parents break down crying on the phone, and parents that he has been on the phone with for 5-10 minutes because they have shared stories about their child’s history and the fact that hearing something good helps.

“I haven’t heard anyone tell me not call again,” Barton said. “When the principal calls, it’s not generally something positive. I’ve kind of chuckled to myself that I’ve had to call some of these parents before on not so great news, and I can hear the apprehension in their voice when they find out it’s me calling.”

Barton said it’s good to have that conversation with the parents for something positive.

“I hope that students eventually start noticing that, ‘Hey, we got a call from the principal and it wasn’t bad,’” Barton said. “Honestly, it isn’t a chore at all. I look at it as a reward on my end to be able to call and give good news to parents.”

Every two weeks, Barton sets aside about 30-45 minutes to make these calls, more if he needs to. Over the last month that he has been doing it, he has made about 27 calls.

“Honestly, I look forward to it every two weeks,” Barton said. “I’ll keep doing it as long as I keep getting responses.”

Barton has been the principal for four years at Cassville, and has had eight years total as an administrator.

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