A major focus for Austin is the development of clear commitments, which he started working on in a “Jerry Maguire-like” moment in his office. After developing a set of commitments for himself, he began encouraging counselors, teachers and students to develop their own sets.
All of the commitments are being posted on the school’s Web site.
“This is more than just a poster on the wall,” he said.
Student athletes have begun a Champions of Character program from Vanguard University, which Austin hopes to expand to the entire school in the future.
He also described a mentoring program in which the school’s most at-risk kids have been partnered with faculty mentors.
“Our goal is to have less kids fall through the cracks,” he said. “We’re going to try to create healthy, individual thinkers.”
Thurston Middle School Principal Joanne Culverhouse is focusing on the school’s harassment policy; the leadership team visited every classroom on campus earlier this school year, where they spoke about the issue.
“I think that middle school is a very, very difficult age,” she said. “Everything that they’re going through is monumental.”
Priorities at Thurston are improving its Positive Behavior Support program and its related SMART Card program, which give students incentives to excel.
“There is a huge connection between the academic connection and the social connection at all schools,” Culverhouse said.
Students who earn cards will be able to participate in mini-assemblies by invitation only, where they can win gift cards, T-shirts and other prizes that are meaningful to them.
“Yes, we do ‘buy’ the children at Thurston Middle School,” Culverhouse said, laughing.