A new approach to encouraging good behavior at Fayette County High School is showing promising signs, says Principal Dan Lane, though he says its too early to claim a complete victory just yet.

When Lane took his new post last year, he inherited a student discipline situation he says he felt needed high-priority attention. “We had a high number of discipline referrals,” he said.

That number was close to 1,600, Lane says, and what is especially remarkable about that number is that, according to school records, the write-ups were being given to only about 17 percent of the student population.

“We were seeing kids who had multiple referrals,” he said.

So Lane put together a discipline task force to look at ways to stem unacceptable behavior and promote positive behavior. He says one thing that came up quickly was that the school was pretty much exclusively using a “punishment model” of student management. The more frequently a student got into trouble, the more severe the consequence.

“Using the punishment model alone wasn’t working,” Lane said.

While Lane says the school still hands out consequences when necessary, a new Positive Behavior Program was born out of the task force meetings, and that program was rolled out when the 2014-15 school year began. Using “Tiger Tokens”, school teachers, staff and even bus drivers are encouraged to give at least 25 commendations to students each week, and students can then cash in those slips of paper at a special Tiger Token Store at lunch time in the Commons area.

Just one Tiger Token affords a student a free roller grill item coupon from the local RaceTrac gas station. Twenty-five Tiger Tokens buys a driving student a parking upgrade, which allows them to use the staff lot. Other rewards include the exclusive use of lockers along the main hallway, smoothies from Truett’s Luau restaurant, sports bottles, FCHS logo hats and chances to win drawings, including this week’s pair of cinema tickets.

Paraprofessional Joanne Alford was brought on this year to coordinate the Positive Behavior Program, and she says teachers are warming up to the opportunity. Bus drivers, say she and Lane, were some of the earliest adopters.

“Our bus drivers say it has really helped them,” Alford said.

The trick is to keep prizes on offer while not breaking the bank, but thus far Alford says the community has been supportive, and prizes have flowed in from across the Fayetteville business sector.

“We probably have about 95-percent support from businesses we’ve approached,” Alford said. “Everybody seems to be excited about the program.”

While Friday lunch times are generally redemption times for Tiger Tokens, Alford opened up shop this past Monday, because she had been off the Friday before. Monday became a big day for Senior Samantha Wagner, who cashed in 25 Tiger Tokens for a staff parking spot. She is the third to do so this year.

Wagner said she had thought about trying to save up the required 60 tokens to get a ladies letterman jacket, but then she thought she could more imminently benefit from close-in parking, so she pulled the trigger on that instead. There’s only one letterman jacket being offered, so there’s no guarantee she’d have saved up enough before someone else snagged it. But thanks to recent school downsizing, there are plenty of available staff parking spaces.

“We’re not bribing the kids,” Lane said. “We’re encouraging positive behavior. It’s a way to build positive relationships with the kids.”

The students aren’t the only ones cashing in, though. Teachers, too, are motivated to participate by being included in drawings for more grown-up prizes such as oil changes and fine dining coupons. Every Tiger Token has to be signed by a teacher, so when that teacher’s token is surrendered, it is entered into a drawing just for staff members.

Organizations interested in contributing to the Positive Behavior Program can reach Alford at alford.joanne@mail.fcboe.org or by calling 770-460-3540, ext. 193.

So far, the following local businesses have contributed to Fayette County High’s Positive Behavior Program: Big Frog Custom T-Shirts; Truett’s Luau; Partners II Pizza; World Gym; T & G Allsports; Old Courthouse Tavern; RaceTrac; Dickey’s Barbecue Pit; La Hacienda; Panera Bread, Fayetteville; Wear Me; Flash Foods; Bruster’s Ice Cream; McDonald’s; TJ’s Nails; The Great Georgia Air Show; Frank’s at The Old Mill; Johnny’s New York Style Pizza; Fayetteville Main Street; Wal-Mart, Fayetteville; Twisted Taco; Game Stop; Cinemark Tinseltown; Christina’s Dominican Hair Salon; Firehouse Subs; Express Oil Change & Service Center; Delta Community Credit Union; Nail Fever; O’Charley’s; Dick’s Sporting Goods; Gym South; Popcorn Divine; Wells Fargo; Rejuv Spa; Ritz Fayette Beauty Academy & Barber School; and Starbucks.