Houses of Hayes Intermediate develops a positive school culture

Spring 2021 was full of hope at Hayes Intermediate School in the South-Western City School District.

We imagined the 2021-22 school year starting with a sense of normalcy. However, after two disjointed school years, we knew we had to nurture our students’ relationship not just with their school, but with their peers.

From this mindset, the Hayes House System was born.

Our vision for our house system was to provide a framework of Level 1 positive behavioral interventions and supports and a school counseling approach to creating a culture of positivity and belonging among students.

As a school, we wanted this new programming to foster internal motivation, build relationships, build character, generate enthusiasm, and support school spirit.

Although it was a tall order, we felt it was important to make Hayes Intermediate a place where everyone knew they had a “crew and a cause”.

The incredible staff at Hayes Intermediate were ready to work together to plan and get started on this venture. We modeled our house system on the established model of the Ron Clark Academy House in Atlanta.

A house is similar to a club, and each person in Hayes Intermediate was created to join one of four Hayes houses: Altruismo, Amistad, Isibindi, or Dreamer.

First, all of our certified and classified staff had fun joining one of the Hayes houses. This was followed by enthusiasm and understanding of the house system with our students.

The students were then randomly placed in their new home. This was followed by a piece on leadership, adding our house captains and class house spirit leaders.

Every day, our houses undertake to earn house points. House points can be awarded for positive choices by all staff members to all students who embody our mascot, the husky, and we affectionately refer to them as Husky Points.

The focus is on individual positive behavior, but each student’s accomplishments add up to collective house points, making for community and social rewards. Students cheer on each other as points are earned, and when a new student arrives at Hayes Intermediate, the suspense and excitement can be heard throughout the school on House Selection Day for the newcomer.

The overall goal for students is to win the annual House Championship by collectively earning the most points as a House during the school year. This is the most engaging and exciting piece – healthy competition.

Walk around the building and you’ll notice our house system everywhere – students wearing house spirit clothing, student-created house room decor, house chants from the classrooms, and conversations in the lanes on changes in the points standings.

Almost all staff members actively seek student points opportunities to promote and enhance positive behaviors and academics.

Our PTA and parents have also shown their support for the house by helping with house celebrations, sharing the spirit of the house with their children and adding a fabulous Hayes Houses mural in our main hallway.

We even had outside community support. South-Western Career Academy visited Hayes Intermediate to help upgrade our house points app by adding student photos, and our school DARE officer joined a house.

The fun environment and everyday impact of Hayes homes is felt throughout the building. In what has been a few years like no other for schools around the world, the Hayes Houses initiative has been both satisfying and heartwarming, and the positive middle school culture is thriving.

Ami Homman is in her first year as a school counselor at Hayes Intermediate School in Grove City.

Martha K. Merrill