Glendive schools work on student support

Noah French
Sunday, November 24, 2019
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Hailey Shiply stands with signs that remind Lincoln School students to behave in appropriate ways towards themselves and others.

To make a suitable environment for learning, Glendive Public Schools have been developing programs to regulate student behavior.

Across Montana, schools have been adopting Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). MTSS is a system that hopes to help students by understanding their needs and helping each of them as necessary.

To do this, MTSS follows a basic philosophy that separates students into three different categories based on behavioral and academic risk.

While the specific numbers vary from school to school, MTSS assumes that a majority of students are low risk, with some being mid risk, and fewer being high risk.

According to Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis, the percentages of students by risk are generally considered to be about 80% low risk, 15% mid risk, and 5% high risk.

Schools implementing MTSS are expected to interact with students in each of these categories through programs that properly take their needs into account.

GPS has been building these systems for awhile, with small programs modeled to regulate the behavior of the student majority being slowly built up in Jefferson, Lincoln, and (as of this year) Washington Middle School.

The programs currently in place have students follow a few universal rules that are consistent from school to school, with the goal being to teach the youth of Glendive how to regulate their behavior and reward students who act positively just as students who act negatively may be punished.

Schreibeis said that the major focus right now is to build positivity in each building by implementing the universal expectations and rewarding students who live up to them.

For Schreibeis, helping students understand and better their behavior is just the first step in a long journey. His hope is to create an environment that every student and teacher enjoys being in. He believes that before you can teach students anything, they have to be willing and able to learn.

Schreibeis envisions a district with the Golden Rule at its heart, one that encourages students and teachers to grow socially and emotionally as well as academically.

“I think behavior is a big piece of this, but I think social/ emotional learning is one of the most important,” Schreibeis said.

By helping students grow socially and emotionally, Schreibeis hopes the district can help make successful adults out of its students, instead of just getting them through their twelve years.

One major roadblock that Schreibeis sees, is the school’s inability to help students who suffer from mental illness.

“We live in a state that has the number one suicide rate in the nation. We live in a state that has the number one increase in suicides in the nation. So not only are we number one, but we’re pulling away from people,” Schreibeis said.

Nobody wants to think about that worst case scenario, but Schreibeis believes that understanding what students are going through and operating with the intention of helping them understand is a necessity in crafting a healthy learning environment.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Americans ages 15-24, and Schreibeis recognizes that young people’s inability to understand and cope with their emotions and stresses is a major issue.

Schreibeis wants his staff to be able to build relationships and connections with their students, so they can help them regulate socially and emotionally. This, Schreibeis believes, is a crucial aspect of helping students learn.

“So much of teaching now, is the other stuff,” he said.

Schreibeis wants to create a system that encourages students to follow what they’re passionate about, and to understand what makes them valuable. He believes that public education is too weakness based.

“We focus too much on what people can’t do and not enough on what they can do,” he said.

Starting with just simple systems that help students function socially, Schreibeis hopes he can develop a more complex system that helps every student understand who they are and what they want to do by the time they graduate from DCHS.

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