By LOIS KINDLE
Students at Eisenhower Middle School in Gibsonton now have a more tangible reason for being good and doing good.
Thanks to a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay Harold W. Corrigan Fund, the school opened its new Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) room March 29. The event was officiated by Nate Francis, the school’s principal, school district representatives, members of the CFTB South Shore Council and about 20 exemplary Eisenhower students who had been nominated by their teachers to preview the room.
“This donation was provided to build a student incentive/PBIS room for all students, with the goal of continuing to motivate and encourage positive behaviors and culture at Eisenhower Middle School,” said Francis in opening remarks, noting the room is an initiative of the school’s mission, Operation Excellence, the strategic establishment of environmental conditions for student excellence.
“Mr. Corrigan’s philosophy is aligned with Operation Excellence, which involves all stakeholders working together to create an environment where students can excel in every area, at every level, through any circumstance,” Francis continued. “He believed the building of strong communities was rooted in the philosophy of caring people looking out for one another and providing opportunities for others not just to survive, but thrive. He recognized the future of any strong community resides in the trajectory of its students.”
Judging by the students’ reactions when they entered the PBIS room for the first time, the space was definitely a hit. They quickly buzzed around the room checking out all of its exciting, kid-friendly offerings.
These included gaming consoles; standing arcade games; air hockey, foosball and pool tables; an air karaoke stage; hoops boards; snack bar; VIP area for students specially nominated by teachers to get a free snack and special entry lanyard; plus a smaller multipurpose room for playing board games and use as a conference/tutoring room.
The Hillsborough County School District’s Division of Operations partnered to renovate an old, unused room that was completely modernized to become the PBIS Room. Its team built the VIP area, karaoke stage and snack bar; assembled the gaming equipment and chairs; painted its walls and installed flooring.
“[The PBIS Room is] a wonderful thing to do for us,” said 8th-grade student Katherine Coto Portillo, 13. “It’s really good for the students because it will help us study harder, stay focused and give us the chance to earn a little break.”
Her friend, 7th-grader Johaneliz Cruz Martinez, 12, agreed.
“Everything is perfect,” she said. “This is a great experience for students and will help them see school in a different way.”
How the project evolved
Eisenhower Middle School behavior specialist Tony Rose brought up the idea of having a room for incentivizing positive behaviors and discussed it with Francis. Francis, in turn, went to his boss and things started rolling from there.
Last August, Richard Rios, a member of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay South Shore Council, was approached by Marcos Murillo, Hillsborough County School District regional superintendent for middle schools, seeking funds on behalf of Francis and Eisenhower Middle School for the PBIS Room.
Rios recognized the project’s value and contacted Jesse Corragio, CFTB senior vice president, community impact.
“We decided it was a worthwhile project and got with attorney Bo Mohr; the Corrigan Fund advisor committed to it and obtained school board approval.”
Mohr said Corrigan had been an educator himself, and the fund was always looking for educational projects to support in southern Hillsborough County.
“This one seemed like a good fit,” he added. “It’s just what Harold would have wanted.”
Rios noted there are only a handful of these PBIS rooms in the county, all of which were funded by outside organizations.
The district has no funding for them.
“Without the donation of $35,000 from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the PBIS Room would not be possible,”
Francis said, thanking Rios, the foundation and Corrigan for making Eisenhower’s room a reality.
Eisenhower Middle School is at 7620 Old Big Bend Road, Gibsonton. For more information, call (813) 671-5121.
How the program works
Students are incentivized to earn “General bucks” through positive behaviors like having good attendance, performing acts of kindness, turning in homework on time, being named student of the week or any behaviors a teacher or administrator recognizes. Teachers have autonomy on the reasons they give them.
Admission to the room for an hour during lunchtime is $25 and snacks are $1 apiece (all in General bucks). The teacher or administrator awarding them determines how many are given for any one behavior. No more than 25 students can be in the room at one time during the three lunch periods.
Hillsborough County School Resource Deputy Jerome Scott, who has served at Eisenhower the past eight years, gives The PBIS room a thumbs up.
“It’s great,” he said. “It will give kids the motivation to behave well. I really think this will make a difference.”
About Harold Corrigan
According to information supplied by Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Harold William Corrigan was a man of strong principles who had a genuine concern for young people.
Majoring in physical education, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, a master’s degree from the University of Colorado and then began teaching physical education to junior high school students in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He later went on to supervise elementary physical education programs.
Corrigan served during World War II as a special services officer. Afterward, he returned to Waukesha, where he met and married Elinor Hicken.
Throughout his lifelong career as a physical education teacher, Corrigan firmly believed in the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle early in life, positive discipline, good sportsmanship, the value of family and community, and the importance of folks looking out for one another.
He retired to the Sun City Center community, where he died in 2005 at age 98.
Before he passed away, Corrigan set up his fund with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay out of his desire to make a difference in people’s lives. He felt the foundation shared his belief in education and the importance of teachers who nurture students.