District to keep Make Your Day program

WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee School District is sticking with Make Your Day, its classroom management program, despite a yearlong protest from parents who say the program is too negative and hurts kids’ self esteem.

“The resolution is not saying, ‘stay as it is,’ it is saying that we intend to continue to review and improve the Make your Day program,” board member Laura Jaecks told the audience.

An estimated 60 people, mostly staff, watched the school board’s unanimous vote Monday night. Before the decision, six people spoke — a counselor and teacher in favor of the program, and four parents against it.

Wenatchee adopted Make Your Day about 12 years ago for its elementary and middle schools. The philosophy is, “No one has the right to interfere with the learning and safety of others.” Students who break that behavioral code are placed on “steps” one to five, with consequences that range from an in-class timeout to a parent-teacher conference. The program also includes a points system, which students earn based on good behavior and effort.

Newbery parent Dodie Pike questioned the disparity between staff and parent attitudes toward Make Your Day. The district added seven Make Your Day questions to its annual survey of parents and staff in April. It asked whether the program is fair, reasonable and helped kids take responsibility for their learning and behavior.

More than 1,900 parents and 300 teachers responded. For most questions, about 20 percent of parents expressed discontent with the program, compared with 4 to 7 percent of teachers.

“If it were me looking at a job I was doing, I’m giving myself 90 percent across the board, but my customers are giving me 60s. That’s not OK,” Pike said. “Yes, the program might have worked for years but that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed or tweaked because it’s not working.”

Teachers’ confidence in the program sank when it came to consistency. About 80 percent of teachers, and 70 percent of parents believe the program is consistent and appropriately applied.

Superintendent Brian Flones said the district still has work to do in ensuring every teacher is using the program correctly. But overall, 90 percent staff approval is a good benchmark for the district, he said.

The survey also showed a disparity between Spanish- and English-speaking parents. Of 620 Spanish-speakers, less than 5 percent expressed discontent on most questions regarding the program.

Ron Brown, a district administrator who manages Make Your Day, could not explain the difference but said that gap only existed on questions regarding school safety and the learning environment.

Board member Jesús Hernández speculated that communication might be the difference. The district takes extra care to break the language barrier and explain its programs in Spanish at Latino parent meetings, which are typically well-attended.

“Maybe that’s a model we should look at for all parents,” he said after the meeting.

Hernández said he researched alternatives to Make Your Day, but most still support the program, and the district has invested a lot of time and resources into it.

“Anytime we try to implement a program system-wide in a district this size, it’s always a challenge to reach the consistency and communication necessary to have the kind of impact we want to have,” he said. Introducing a new program would still take time to be successful, he said.

The district added the Make Your Day questions to create a baseline, so it can see how perceptions of the program change over time. The questions are part of a plan to improve the program in response to parent complaints. The plan included: training for all K-8 teachers and principals, school audits twice a year to check for consistency, an integration of positive feedback into the program and more parent involvement and communication.

Rachel Schleif: 664-7139