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Support and Consensus Leads to Great Rewards

As in many schools across the country, candy was just part of the culture at Mr. Rainier Elementary, almost a form of currency. They used it to motivate students and to encourage good behavior. Rob Hokanson, physical education teacher, estimates that 75% of staff would use candy as rewards. Even the custodians would sometimes pass out candy to students in the hallway.

When the school joined the Healthy Schools Program their wellness council decided as part of their planning that a change was needed to adopt a no candy policy at their staff meeting. Knowing how important it was to build support on the issue, they went through a consensus building process to get universal support for the new policy. Hokanson admits that at first they had a few naysayers who did not want to take the extra steps to think outside of the box for new and innovative approaches to encouraging good behavior and performance. During the meeting they made sure that everyone’s views were shared and by the end of the meeting, everyone was on board. “The whole school has buy-in and the staff feels like their input is valued,” said Hokanson.

Hokanson worked with Healthy Schools Program staff to get fresh ideas related to alternative rewards and how to combat the initial resistance among a few staff members. School staff is now embracing the policy and try to use it as a teachable moment to explain to the students why they are not getting candy anymore. Staff members are now offering other options such as pencils, erasers or carrots. Principal Janet Reed said, ““Follow up, follow through and support were critical to the success of this policy.”