Summit Middle School gets fleeced
SUMMIT COUNTY – Fourteen-year-old Samantha Birchler felt a little nervous at times walking through the halls of Summit Middle School last year.”I felt it wasn’t safe, because there wasn’t enough supervision, and kids would get into trouble,” she said.Last year’s annual climate survey revealed that middle school parents shared Samantha’s concerns about “unstructured time” – when students are at their lockers, in the cafeteria or switching between classrooms.Reports of adolescent rough-housing and shenanigans had some worrying about the school’s safety.”Every year, we do these surveys and something jumps out,” said eighth-grade teacher Carolyn Wolsiefer, co-chair of the school’s Climate Team.
“And we look at it and say, ‘Let’s go fix it.’ Last year, it was the general climate in and about the halls – that was a place that was popping out for us.”Middle school staff and parents determined to turn that around, and the Golden Fleece program was born. Since September, parents and community members have strolled the hallways and the cafeteria in bright yellow, fleece vests, ensuring a greater adult presence and buttressing staff efforts to spend more time in the halls.”I see quite a few of them a couple times a week when I’m changing classes and going to lunch,” Samantha said. “It’s gotten a lot better this year, because kids know there’s someone there watching them, so they won’t do bad stuff.”The program has more than 40 participants, volunteering anywhere from once a month to a couple times each week. They schedule their appearances in two-hour blocks and meander through the halls during passing times, hang out in the lunchroom and lend a helping hand to teachers.Erika Krainz, who has a seventh-grade son, dons a Golden Fleece vest once every other week.”I was interested to find out how things really are in the hallways,” Krainz said. “Last year, I heard things were getting a little rough. But I haven’t seen anything inappropriate. I think they’re great kids. They’re well behaved, they’re polite and friendly. Everybody always smiles and says ‘hi.'”
Educators trained Golden Fleece volunteers for the job but they aren’t expected to provide discipline when students misbehave.”We made a conscious decision that, if there is a situation that requires disciplinary action, we want them to know whom to go to, but we don’t want them to have to discipline other people’s kids,” Wolsiefer said.Initial reports from parents and students suggest the program is having its intended effect. In December, 12 students in a focus group said they felt safer this year in the school. Feedback from parents has been positive, too.”I like the idea of having parents around,” Krainz said. “It’s been very educational for me to see how these kids behave in the school environment, and I’m very encouraged.””I love it,” said Summit Cove parent Krissy Moulton, who volunteers once a month. “Everybody says our presence makes a difference, and I think it does.”
Moulton often bumps into her sixth-grade son Dael as she roams the hallways. But some parents insist that they patrol areas separate from their own children’s classes, and school staff are happy to oblige.”My son is still of the age that he’ll say hi and talk to me. He’s too young to know he’s supposed to be embarrassed about his mom,” Moulton joked.Dael concurred, saying that having his mother in the Golden Fleece program is “sort of cool.”Anyone interested in volunteering for the program can call Summit Middle School at (970) 668-5037.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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