healthy school culture sessions 23a 23b donna betzer wanda bush n.
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Healthy School Culture Sessions 23A & 23B Donna Betzer Wanda Bush. The Culture Dynamic. “Houston, we have a problem…”. The NASA Tiger Team. The Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. NASA Culture Leads to Disasters.

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nasa culture leads to disasters
NASA Culture Leads to Disasters
  • Investigative board says difficult culture within NASA real cause of disasters …
  • Arrogance
  • Fear of retribution
  • Communication problems
  • Strained relationships
  • Boston College sociologist Diane Vaughan called the decisions made within NASA “institutional failure,” citing organizational and cultural changes that should have been fixed after Challenger.
the hlc mission
The HLC Mission

To empower children with the

knowledge and skills

to make healthy lifestyle choices

and avoid risk behaviors.

what we do
What We Do

Comprehensive risk-behavior prevention programming

  • Conflict Resolution/Violence Prevention
  • Substance Abuse Prevention
  • Obesity Prevention (nutrition & fitness)
  • Safety
  • School-wide Culture Program
how we do it
How We Do It

Research-based curriculum and reinforcing programming

  • (1) 45-minute lesson per week
  • Pre-K through 6th grade
  • Aligned with all standards and benchmarks and GLE’s
  • Optional reinforcing experiences (parent workshops, games, TV messages)
  • HLC Healthy School Culture Program
hlc healthy school culture program
HLC Healthy School Culture Program
  • Developed in collaboration with Southwest Airlines to bring their successful corporate culture training to schools
  • Goal is to give school faculty, staff and leadership the tools to change the school environment into a place where professionals want to work, and where children love to learn
  • (1) 3-hour training session empowers schools to simplify behavioral expectations, and develop a system to recognize and reward positive behaviors
why emphasize culture change
Why emphasize culture change?

In pre and post culture surveys administered over a two-year period at six schools, teachers reported improvements in 25 of 28 culture indicators including double digit increases in 19 of 28 items

biggest gains
Biggest gains
  • Clarity regarding acceptable behaviors (+29.2%)
  • Teachers who do not have to yell to get students attention (+27.5%)
  • Students who appear happy to be at school every day (+23.3%)
  • Quality of student to staff relationships (+21.6%)
  • Quality of parent to staff relationships (+20.3%)
healthy behaviors translate to the home
Healthy behaviors translate to the home
  • 84% made positive changes in their eating habits
  • 71% were making safer choices in and around the home
  • 69% were exercising more
  • 51% had improved their relationships with friends and family

Program Goals

  • INCLUDES traditional PBS goals
    • Define behavioral expectations
    • Teach behavioral expectations
    • Acknowledge appropriate behaviors
    • Correct behavioral errors

Unique Goals

    • Entire staff role-models positive behaviors
    • Begin peer to peer, transfer to students
    • Promotes collaboration, supportive work environment
    • Encourages expressions of praise, appreciation for peers
    • Includes parental involvement strategies
before you begin
Before you begin…
  • Pre-culture survey to assess:
  • Physical environment (Warm/welcoming, noisy, safe, clean)
  • Staff dynamics (Happy to come to work? Respected/? Valued? Sense of cooperation?)
  • Staff/student interactions (Do we approach children as customers? Look for the best in kids? Respect them? Administer consistent discipline?)
  • Healthy Role-modeling (Healthy food served? Healthy food sold? Lunch room offers most nutritious selections possible? Adequate recess play activities? P.E.?)
  • Communication (Written mission statement or values? Behavioral expectations/rules understood by all?)
5 steps to a healthy culture
5 Steps to a Healthy Culture

Step 1: Define Values

Step 2: Define behavioral expectations

Step 3: I.D. Artifacts, Celebrations and Rewards

Step 4: Live It: Form a Culture Committee

Step 5: Hire the right people



“It’s So Simple”


Step 1: Define Your Values

Are deep-seated beliefs about the world and how it operates. They are emotional rules that govern our behavior and attitudes.


Object of the game:

Keep 6 cards that reflect your personal values.








Others judge us by our behaviors . . .

We justify our behaviors by our intentions.



Step 2: Define Behavioral Expectations

Everyone has responsibilities in contributing to a healthy school culture. Each school should define behavioral expectations for staff, students and parents. (PBS foundation)


Staff Members

are role models of positive behavior. They reflect school values in all they do. They speak and act toward peers, students and parents in a positive, encouraging way. They treat others the way they’d want to be treated.



should approach staff members with a positive attitude and respect. They should communicate and behave in ways that reflect a healthy school culture.


Students Live the Culture

  • Respect for teachers and school staff members
  • Respect for fellow students
  • Praise and support each other
  • Encourage and help each other
  • Remind each other about classroom rules and assist in resolving conflict
  • Welcome new students into the classroom
  • Participate in ritual activities that celebrate positive behaviors in the classroom (like a classroom meeting or circle time)

Parental involvement strategies

  • Host some parent-teacher meetings that are SOCIAL gatherings, to get to know one another
  • Create a parent resource center within the library that can loan books or videos to parents
  • Be creative in identifying volunteer opportunities
    • Post “volunteer wanted” signs near the office or in parent newsletters; include the job description so they understand needs
    • Experiment with having students lead parent-teacher conferences or parenting nights in order to boost participation
    • Ask other teachers, librarians, cafeteria workers what type of help they need

So, now what?

  • Simplify rules and behavioral expectations for staff and students
  • Keep them positive
  • Make them KNOWN

Step 3:

Artifacts Celebrations Rewards



Visible, physical


of your

school culture.



  • Morning announcements
  • Music – set mood
  • Photos
  • Student Art on display
  • Bulletin Boards
  • News clippings
  • Letters of praise/support
  • Cards
  • Themed Weeks/decorations
  • Parent newsletters
  • School signs

HLC Artifacts:

  • Post Classroom activities in hallways
  • Post behavior and safety rules/signs throughout school
  • Post hand washing reminders in bathrooms
  • Use Team Turtle Characters throughout facility to reinforce healthy choices

Behavioral Artifacts:

  • Role model healthy habits
  • Include healthy choices as part of fundraisers
  • Offer low-fat, low-sugar choices for breakfast and lunch
  • Offer physically active activities for kids before school, at recess and after school
  • Host smoking cessation and other wellness classes for faculty
  • Start an aerobics club for faculty after school


Honor the individuals, groups, significant events and important accomplishments through creative, festive and outrageous ways. They make the spirit of an organization visible and remind people what’s important.


Why celebrations are important:

  • Build relationships
  • Provide sense of history
  • Recognize major milestones
  • Inspires, motivates and reenergizes people
  • Reduces stress
  • Build self-confidence and removes fear
  • Helps people mourn loss associated with change

Celebration guidelines:

  • The celebration must be . . .
  • Authentic
  • Raise people’s dignity
  • Appeal to all senses
  • Seen as an investment not cost
  • Cost-effective
  • Done right


Values decay without recognition. Rewards recognize important contributions and reinforce positive behaviors.


Reward ideas:

  • Verbal recognition
  • Group/assembly recognition
  • Thank you notes
  • Prizes
  • Privileges


artifacts – celebrations - rewards


Step 4:

Live it! The Culture Committee


The Culture Committee

  • Select a leader
  • Recruit volunteers from all stakeholder groups (teachers, administrators, cafeteria, office, bus drivers, students, parents)
  • Plan to meet monthly
  • Look at pre-culture survey and values, and use ideas generated in your culture training to plan effective artifacts, rewards and celebrations
  • Report regularly at staff meetings
  • Measure culture effects every year using the culture survey
swa culture committee mission statement
SWA Culture Committee Mission Statement

This group’s goal is to help create the Southwest Spirit and Culture where needed; to enrich it and make it better where it already exists; and to liven it up in places where it might be “floundering.” In short, this group’s goal is to do “WHATEVER IT TAKES” to create, enhance, and enrich the special Southwest Spirit and Culture that has made this such a wonderful Company/Family.


Step 5:

Hire the right people


Create an Ad Campaign

  • Recruit teachers
  • Recruit students
  • …key selling point – your healthy culture

Culture . . .

is the glue that holds organizations together…it encompasses beliefs, expectations, norms, rituals, communication patterns and reward systems.

It is not about magic formulas and secret plans; it is a combination of a thousand little things.

Herb & Colleen


Healthy School CultureSessions 23A & 23BDonna Betzerdbetzer@hlconline.orgWanda