How Reinforcing Positive Behavior Has Improved Our Classrooms

students snow tubing

While the Positive Behavioral Intervention & Reinforcement (PBIS) program has been established in the middle and high school for several years, teachers and administrators recently revisited the program and how it works in an effort to improve student behavior in the classroom. PBIS encourages and reinforces positive actions, rather than exclusively focusing on students who behave negatively and disciplining them.

For middle and high school students, behaviors are tracked on a level scale. Every day, students start out at level 0, meaning the student has shown no behavioral problems. Students receive a warning before moving up a level. If behavior doesn’t improve after a warning, they move up to a level 1, which leads to lunch detention. Level 2 leads to after school detention, and level 3 leads to the student going to the office, going home and in-school suspension the following day.

“It’s amazing how well PBIS has worked,” says Matthew Ballentine, middle and high school principal. “Students are significantly more motivated to behave well than they were before, because they know their good behavior may be rewarded.”

Throughout the year, administrators do random drawings for incentives such as a free ice cream or other perks to reward students who haven’t had any behavior issues. There are also two big trips for all students who remain at level 0 for an entire semester. In the fall, those students go snow tubing at Bell Fountain for $10. In the spring, students go to King’s Island for $20. Administrators are working on more fundraising ideas to make these trips completely free for students.

Students who aren’t eligible for these trips spend the day in the cafeteria with guidance counselors to discuss behavioral issues and how to improve them. Last year, 220 out of 400 students went snow tubing in the fall and 250 students were eligible to go to King’s Island in the spring. This increase shows staff and administrators that students want to do what’s necessary to go on fun trips with their classmates.

In the first 12 weeks of last year, 1900 students were referred to the principal’s office for behavior issues, and in the first 12 weeks of this school year, only 1100 students were referred to the office. Ballentine hopes to see those numbers continue to decrease as the year goes on.

“I was skeptical about PBIS at first,” said Ballentine. “But the improvements we’ve seen in student behavior in the last year and a half show how well it works. I’m continually impressed by the decrease in office referrals and detentions and by students who have changed their behavior for the better.”

CCSD Food Services Team Provides Meals to Families in Need

winter food boxes

During the winter months, Chillicothe City School District is working diligently to ensure students and their families have access to food. These initiatives include a mobile meals program to guarantee students get a hot meal on snow days and a holiday dinner for lower income families.

Last year the food services team launched the mobile meals program by bringing hot meals to specific drop off locations throughout the district during snow days. While all students have access to two hot, healthy meals during normal school days, the same cannot be said on days when school is canceled. To combat this, Mary Montgomery, director of food services at CCSD, put a plan of action together to ensure all students have access to balanced meals on snow days. With support from her staff, including Tabitha Muse and Sarah Hawthorne, the food services team was able to deliver 352 lunches during a snow day last year.

“This year, we’ve reached out to students and parents and asked them if they need lunch on snow or cold temperature cancelation days,” said Montgomery. “We’re now in the process of mapping out all of the locations and creating drop-off zones for those locations. We will make the lunches at the high school cafeteria and will have volunteers deliver them. Students and families in need can identify us by the #CavsCare decals on our cars.”

Another initiative started by the food services team is an annual Holiday Spirit Dinner, which was held December 10. The event was started by Montgomery in 2016 and involves serving meals to select district families in need. Each building principal invites families to the dinner, which takes place in the high school cafeteria. The event is kept private for families to enjoy a delicious dinner together during the holiday season without having to worry about the financial burden.

Community members can help those in need by volunteering over the holiday season at food pantries and at mobile meal drop-off locations.

“Our community does a great job of helping our students when we ask them to,” says Montgomery. “We’re looking into ways to raise awareness of the gap in food availability at pantries over the Christmas holiday and provide food to our students who need it.”

For food available during this year’s holiday break, please see the below calendar.

winter meals calendar

CCSD Holiday Performances Free and Open to All


To celebrate the holiday season, the CCSD Music Department is offering a wide array of performances spreading joy and cheer to all (see concert schedule below). Family, friends and community members are encouraged to attend these festive events that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Music students are excited to share what they’ve been working hard to perfect over the last few months. Many of the compositions are holiday favorites, but there are non-traditional pieces as well. For example, the district’s wind ensemble will be performing a version of “O, Holy Night” that has an African rhythm twist, and many of the choral groups will sing songs in other languages and from other cultures.

“I like to sing Christmas songs in choir because when we all sing together, it feels like everyone puts away their problems,” said Caleb Barfield, high school concert choir member. “We’re united by all of us singing the same messages about a holiday we love.”

The high school choir will feature a semi-professional adult choir, The Renaissance Singers, as special guests during their concert. The Renaissance Singers will perform as part of the choir’s Cookie Walk fundraiser on December 10, and the high school’s symphonic choir will perform a piece called “Born on a New Day” at The Renaissance Singers’ holiday concert on December 19.

Spreading positivity through music during the holiday season has already begun in the community. Earlier this month, high school music groups performed at Chillicothe’s Downtown Open House to celebrate the beginning of the holiday shopping season. They caroled on the courthouse steps and played instrumental music in local coffee shops.  

“When singing in choir, I feel supported by the community and my peers,” said Murielle Ngalle, high school concert choir member. “Every time we sing a chord in a Christmas song, it feels like Christmas morning. It makes me so happy that I can’t help but smile, and I know it makes the audience feel the same way!”

See below for the full list of holiday concerts. We hope you can join us!


Holiday Concerts:

Dec. 2:

  • CHS Sound FX at VA Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Building #9, VA Hospital, 11 a.m.

Dec. 3:

  • CMS Orchestra Concert at CMS/CHS Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 8:

  • CHS Symphonic Choir at The Renaissance Singers Christmas Concert, St. Mary’s Church, 2 p.m., (Free admission with donations encouraged)

Dec. 10:

  • CMS Choral Concert at CMS/CHS Auditorium, 5 p.m.
  • CHS Choral Cookie Walk Fundraiser at CMS/CHS Cafeteria, 5:30 p.m., (All baked goods are $1 per bag)
  • CHS Choral Concert, All Holiday Roads Lead to Home, CMS/CHS auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 11:

  • CIS Band Concert, CIS Cafetorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 12:

  • CHS Orchestra Concert, CMS/CHS Auditorium 7 p.m.

Dec. 17:

  • CPS Second Grade Group A Concert, CPS Cafetorium, 5:30 p.m.
  • CPS Second Grade Group B Concert, CPS Cafetorium, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 18:

  • CMS/CHS Band Concert, CMS/CHS Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 19:

  • CHS Symphonic Choir, Caroling Tour of local schools, All Day, (also visiting Signature Healthcare)

New Resources to Support Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

As students develop emotionally, it is important to support their growth and teach them healthy mechanisms for processing. To assist with emotional and social needs, CCSD has implemented tactics in and out of the classroom for students of all ages.

Earlier this month, the district’s behavior specialist Emily Fox started going to kindergarten classrooms to teach students how to self-regulate and discuss their emotions. During these sessions, she introduces students to specific breathing techniques to help them stay calm during times of high emotion. Behavioral staff are also training teachers on ways to support students who have gone through traumatic situations, as it’s a difficult area to navigate without proper training.  

“It’s hard for teachers when they see students whom they care about struggling, but they don’t know the best way to help them,” said Fox. “The behavioral staff are passionate about not only helping the students through out-of-classroom support, but through teaching other CCSD staff about best practices to help them in the classroom as well.”

In other grade levels, the behavioral staff have been implementing lunch groups of five or fewer students. These students get together to talk about their emotions and work on issues in a socially appropriate way.

CCSD is working diligently to provide an environment in which all staff are aligned to provide the proper support for diverse needs.

“Staff at CCSD value and understand the importance of building relationships with every student who walks through our doors, providing a strong foundation for their studies,” said Fox. “Our teachers know the importance of taking the time to build those relationships, enabling students to feel safe and supported in an environment where they can learn and express themselves.”

According to Fox, students who have received support are making strides in self-regulation, forming trusting relationships with adults and effectively communicating their feelings, emotions and struggles in socially appropriate ways. While the district has plans to implement further social and emotional learning opportunities, there have been both small victories and life-changing improvements in this early stage.