May 2016 School Success Stories


Superior School District Success Story – Part II

The School District of Superior lies on the far northern tip of the state, settled on the shores of the largest Great Lake. Just like the ships that negotiate its waters, Superior’s school district needed to navigate through the deep waters of district change. Getting an entire district aligned with a common set of standards, achieving buy in, establishing communication, and ensuring that the mission was consistent from administration to the classroom required a committed staff and a flexible framework. Superior created and used a fluid continuum of supports, integrating both a multi-level system of support for academics with Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as their guide through this change. In Part I of their story, we discussed how using data, a universal tier of support, and evidence-based practices has made a significant difference in academic and behavioral results. In part two, you’ll learn about their successful leadership structure and coaching model.



Leadership Structures

Shared, collaborative leadership is a hallmark of Superior’s multi-level system of support. The district team is a diverse and representative group that includes the superintendent, director of curriculum, central office leaders, principals, teacher leaders, and coaches. Members come from all levels in the district (K-12) as well as varied areas of focus, including regular education, special education, and student services.

Integrating specific, single-initiative leadership teams into the district shared leadership team supported Superior’s approach to systemic implementation. In 2015-2016, the district unified their four focus areas – PBIS, technology, literacy, and high-impact instruction – into a single leadership team. This team also aligns its focus areas with the Educator Effectiveness Standards. This has reduced “initiative overload” and helps staff to see the interconnected, systemic nature of the work being done in the district.

The district leadership team’s vision and message have been shaped in part by participation in PBIS Network and RtI Center training. By training together on this important work, members of the team are on the same page when it comes to charting the district’s course, communicating expectations, building culture, and celebrating success.

The district leadership team provides the model for each school’s leadership team. Like the district team, each school team reviews data, determines the school’s vision, operationalizes district non-negotiable practices, and engages in continuous improvement planning. School teams consist of administrative and teacher leaders from various areas of the school, some of whom also serve on the district team.

This insures alignment of their work with that of the district, which then extends to grade-level and content teams, and ultimately to individual teachers. This enables smooth flow of information, which supports consistent, district-wide, systemic implementation of a culturally responsive multi-level system of support.

The Role of Coaching

Coaching is one of the driving forces behind the success of these initiatives. The district initially created three coaching positions. After three years, student achievement in their two lowest academic areas improved, while achievement in unsupported areas declined.

Since then, they gradually built up to nine full-time coaches for the 15-16 school year. Coaches work with teachers in their classrooms, during planning time, or during professional development time. They guide, mentor, and encourage teachers in the best use of universal, non-negotiable instructional practices, while guiding fidelity of practice. They neither supervise nor evaluate teachers.

Superior has taken several steps to ensure the success of their coaching model:

  • All nine coaches are members of the district leadership team.
  • A job description for coaches was created to identify exactly what coaches do and don’t do.
  • Each coach works on only one of the district’s four focus areas.
  • All coaches, principals, and district level administrators attended the Wisconsin RtI Center’s Leadership and Coaching training. 
  • Coaches receive support - and support one another - by participating in monthly collaborative meetings.

Coaching also supports PBIS implementation. Behavioral coaches teach full time while also supporting PBIS at all tiers with fidelity.

  • Along with serving on the district leadership team, PBIS coaches:
  • Guide the building team and make sure key roles are filled. 
  • Ensure building evaluations and surveys are completed correctly and within deadlines.
  • Oversee establishment and maintenance of tier 1, 2, and 3 systems, structures, and programs.
  • Ensure accurate data record collection in SWIS to inform meaningful SWIS reports for the team.


Giving Back

Superior has shared their journey at the Wisconsin RtI Summit, the WASCD Conference, and at the Wisconsin PBIS Leadership Conference. Together with CESA 12, they also won an Effectiveness Grant for themselves and nearby districts to attend Wisconsin RtI Center’s Leadership and Coaching training together. According to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Crystal Hintzman: “We are humble in what we have accomplished here in Superior, but know our journey is far from over. Our destinations will forever be changing as we support the needs of the students we serve.”



Jefferson Elementary School Success Story

William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Fanning the flames of enthusiasm is sometimes exactly what’s needed to revitalize an organization and bring out the best in staff and students. At Jefferson Elementary in Sheboygan, this has proven to be the case. Although they had an RtI framework in place, it took the collaboration of an enthusiastic new leader, a dedicated data coach, and the commitment of highly qualified staff to jump-start their efforts. Their hard work and enthusiasm is resulting in test scores that show progress and motivate them to even higher challenges!


“Good morning Jefferson Elementary School, ‘nyaw zhong, ‘buenos dias.’ At Jefferson Elementary School, we will be safe, respectful and responsible. Now please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.”

In this culturally diverse school, we start each day welcoming all students with a message to do their best. As staff, doing our best is a promise we make to our students every day.

Jefferson is home to 410 students: 32% Asian, 8% African American, 24% Hispanic/Latino and 30% White. 70% qualify as economically disadvantaged. As with many other Wisconsin schools, Jefferson staff is dedicated to helping students achieve – no matter what their background. Following are some of the factors that contribute to our success.

High-Quality Personnel

Strong leadership is one of the cornerstones of success in an RtI system. In 2014 a new principal – Zach Pethan – was hired. With his infectious zeal, he re-ignited the staff’s dedication to high standards for teaching and learning. With a firm belief in the power of professional development, he has created opportunities for book study groups, Google and technology training, as well encouraging attendance at conferences and training.

Along with our new leader, 2014 brought a new a data coach who supports and promotes best practices. In addition, of 40 Jefferson teachers, 14 have an additional ELL certification, while eight teachers have their 316 teaching license. A majority of the seven interventionists (including ELL teachers) have had reading and/or math specialist certification.

RtI Implementation

Now in our fourth year of implementing the RtI framework, we at Jefferson believe that RtI is something you DO, not something you BUY.

Maintaining and furthering tier 1 universal implementation is the primary mission of our data coach. Our selected and intensive teachers deliver research-based interventions and use well-run procedures. Working together, they assist students who are in the most need of additional skills, guidance, and help.

Collaboration and Communication

Solid communication and collaboration are essential to ensure all educators are clear on agreed-upon instructional practices, objectives, and expectations. This also allows us to monitor student struggles and progress.

To facilitate this communication, our tier 1 data coach meets weekly with the teachers and interventionists to discuss universal practices. In addition, each grade level meets with their interventionist each month. Our core Data Analysis Team (DAT) meets weekly to monitor progress of tier 2 and tier 3 supported students, as well as address building-wide academic issues. To keep parents informed and involved, each interventionist reaches out monthly to both the classroom teacher and parents using Google apps or old-fashioned pen and paper.

Parents and Community

Successful implementation of an RtI system is made easier when parents and the community are involved. We have made a conscious effort to purposefully engage families with their children’s education.

Two successful events have helped us build goodwill and community: Family Literacy Event and a Math Game Day.

Our school’s Literacy Event was tied into the Sheboygan Area “Children’s Book Festival,” a week-long celebration of youth literacy, which brings together authors and their readers.

After overwhelming attendance and positive feedback for our first event, we decided to host another academic family event featuring low-cost games that enable parents to practice math with children - while having fun.

Hard Work Pays Off

Now we are starting to see some results. For the eighth year in a row, we were awarded with Wisconsin’s Title 1 award “Beating the Odds,” reserved for the top 25 percent of high-poverty schools in the state. This recognition means our school has above-average student achievement in reading and mathematics when compared to schools from similarly sized districts, schools, grade configurations, and poverty levels.

In addition, data from previous statewide tests are showing that – compared to like schools with similar demographics and enrollment in Sheboygan Area School District – Jefferson students are making improvements.

While Jefferson is starting to see some success, we realize these achievements are just the beginning of our journey. We know that one of our many “next steps” is to focus on moving more of our students into the proficient range for math and reading. As we continue to build our framework, Jefferson staff will continue forward with focus and drive, giving that promise to every student, every day to be our best - so that they can be theirs.

Submitted by: Johanna Groene
Jefferson RtI Coordinator/Reading and Math Interventionist
Sheboygan, Wisconsin


Sugar Creek Elementary Success Story: A Principal’s Perspective

One of the foundations for building a culturally responsive multi-level system of support is strong leadership. This story shows how their commitment to PBIS - and the drive of their principal - helped Sugar Creek Elementary transform into a proactive, safe, friendly environment. The school’s principal outlines how expectations are established, made clear, taught, retaught, and met. He also shares practices and techniques that have decreased the time he and others spend on behavioral issues. This not only makes his job easier, but it also gives staff more classroom time with students so they can learn and be successful.



Having been a principal during all phases of implementing PBIS, I gladly share how this system has revolutionized my career. Before PBIS, I was chief disciplinarian. With PBIS now in place, I am instead able to lead staff and students, focus on improving teaching and learning, and have time for other efforts. In order to keep our systems aligned, I dedicate significant time and energy – often daily – to PBIS.


Setting the Tone for the Year: Our school year begins with a paid PBIS Kickoff in August, to celebrate the previous year’s successes and set a month-by-month calendar of plans and goals for the upcoming year. Later, at our Welcome Back session for all staff, every employee is informed about our universal behavioral plans.

Teaching the Students Expectations: For a two-week period in September, all teachers and staff spend 30 minutes a day reinforcing our four expectations (Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Responsible, and Be a Problem-Solver) for the bus, class, recess, lunchroom, halls, and bathrooms. Instruction is reinforced with posted behavioral expectation matrices, a buddy classroom system for time-outs, and a t-chart for both major and minor behavioral offenses. That way, all staff know exactly who handles what situations and how they will be resolved.

Face-to-Face Time: PBIS is a standing topic at each month’s staff meeting, recess supervisor meeting, site council, and school-wide community gathering. At our weekly leadership team meeting we discuss student concerns and successes, incoming data, and how we can help each other with our PBIS roles.

Shared Leadership: Our PBIS coordinator oversees monthly PBIS team meetings and is compensated with an extra-curricular contract. The PBIS Team is open to all staff. By attending, they know they are agreeing to lead our school’s work with PBIS.


New Hires: Every position announcement states that we are seeking candidates with knowledge of PBIS. In our district, our school has the highest rate of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, as well as the most minority students, ESL students, and homeless elementary-age children. Our students need teachers who will not give up on them.

New staff receive in-depth training in behavioral management, the use of the Responsive Classroom, morning meetings expectations, acknowledgements, and our bi-monthly Cool Tool lessons. They also receive ongoing support from colleagues and our PBIS team.

Professional Development: Trainings and professional development are essential – and work especially well in teams. Each year, staff receive PBIS-related trainings including: networking sessions, Non-Violent Crisis Intervention trainings, Nurtured Heart trainings, and Responsive Classroom sessions. We also prioritize learning about equity in education.

Evaluations: Everyone has a role in the success, or failure, of what we are hoping to achieve. Under Domain 2 of the Charlotte Danielson framework, I refer to each teacher’s work in this regard. Being a staff member here means one can’t “opt out” of our school’s systems, including our behavioral system!


Family Outreach: Parent buy-in is crucial to PBIS success. To keep them involved and in the loop, here are a few examples of messages shared with parents:

  • Contract for Learning which all students and parents sign yearly
  • Updates on goals, data, expectations, and acknowledgements
  • A copy of the PBIS report presented to our school board
  • Information about available tier 2 PBIS supports
  • School-wide survey results supporting our PBIS efforts
  • A request for parent reps for our PBIS committee
  • Home Behavioral Matrix connecting home and school behavioral expectations

Practical Suggestions For Making PBIS Work

A principal needs to find ways to support this massive systems approach to behavior.

  1. External coaches are integral to the success of PBIS. Compensating an external coach is critical.
  2. Principal Good News Phone Calls are well worth the family goodwill built through the celebration of student successes.
  3. Staff are encouraged to fulfill their district-required 7.5 hours of self-directed professional development by working with our PBIS efforts. 

A Continuing Journey

Our systems are good, but not perfect. Minority males still receive a disproportionate number of ODRs. Staff members still find themselves frustrated with student behaviors. Responding to our data takes time, and our response doesn’t always work. However, we now have a school where everyone has ownership over behavioral instruction and expectations. A well cared for PBIS system benefits everyone - including the principal!

Submitted by: Principal Todd Brunner
Sugar Creek Elementary School
Verona, Wisconsin