Campus leaders take proactive approach to address culture



Since school relaunched last month, students experienced first-day presentations, ROAR lessons and the waving of a new emblematic “spirit stick.” All these experiences have served a part in an ongoing effort by campus leaders to build community.

The Campus Culture Team (CCT), made up of teachers and administrators, met last summer to plan events and lessons students would attend for 30 minutes after their first period for four days. Staff began creating them at the start of summer and came together to review them before the lessons were sent out to teachers.

The lessons encouraged students to create sticky notes containing inspirational messages which Student Government then posted on campus. Signs above the sticky notes read “Please grab what you need to link up.”

Principal David Byrd said these activities and lessons were put in place to guide the mentality of students and staff this school year.

“ROAR lessons can be used to develop a mindset and an attitude amongst everyone that comes here to work or to learn,” Byrd said. “They are designed to establish the baseline of who we are and what we are all about.”

Assistant principal and CCT member Anna Marie Clark said she hopes this message will remind students to work on relationship skills.

“I was delighted that they came to the ‘building relationships’ idea and they developed it in the powerful, sequential way they did,” Clark said. “We want [students] to work on those relationship skills and we think sometimes it’s pretty basic and we forget that. I think it was a good reminder.”

Last year’s lessons focused on diversity and acceptance in the spring and were created partly in response to racially charged hate incidents and vandalisms. English teacher Debbie Sidler, who played a role in implementing these, believes that this year’s lessons are trying to build new ideas rather than address past campus incidents.

“I think this year is less of a reaction and more proactive so that proactive language, common goals, the idea of linking together and not separating will hopefully bring about stronger positive relationships,” Sidler said. “Last year we were faced with some tragic events that happened on our campus that made us want to unify and do something about that. It brought it to the forefront, we sometimes do not know a problem is so pervasive until something happens and then you get to react.”

Byrd also went into this school year with a proactive philosophy in hopes of decreasing campus issues.

“I try to encourage the school to be proactive, not reactive, “Byrd said. “Let’s build a great environment and have a great school culture and it will have a way of not eliminating problems, but reducing problems to practically nothing.”

School spirit is another component of community that the school is building upon. According to Student Government adviser Brent Mattix, the first day activities successfully energized the student body.

“The philosophy of the first day is to get students excited about coming back to school,” Mattix said. “The first rally was really good, you can tell when everybody works together and they bring their energy this is an amazing place.”

Student Government is also implementing new items such as the “spirit stick” and a new mascot named “Ted E.,” in order to boost spirit from what it was in past years. Senior class president Kara Wilson believes student government’s ideas will augment school spirit.

“I definitely think there were some spots we could work on with the school spirit but I know this year we’re pretty spirited,” Wilson said. “The spirit stick will bring out a lot more enthusiasm in the crowds.”

When students first encountered the stick at the First Day of School Rally, they saw a decorated pole with the head of a tiger on one end. Mattix believes it has been a good addition to campus spirit.

“It was super effective,” Mattix said. “Kids jumped on board so you’re going to continue to see that in rallies, you’re going to see that out at the Tiger Cage and my goal is to hand it off to students.”

At the first football home game, Tiger Cage leader Jack Visger was the first to use the spirit stick and feels it was a great success.

“The Tiger Cage seemed really invested in the spirit stick and I felt like it made the whole football game experience a lot better for everyone because it gave everyone a chance to be involved,” Visger said.

Clark believes that school spirit serves a small part in the effort to construct a positive school culture.

“If you look at the big umbrella of campus culture, school spirit is a piece of it,” Clark said. “But also, what we do with peer helpers, how we manage our athletic programs and coaches and how teachers interact in the classroom is all a part of it.”