Wareham Middle School principal puts discipline first

Jul 2, 2019

Hired as the principal of Wareham Middle School in January of 2018, Tracie Cote has many ideas to improve education at the school and raise the overall academic performance. However, she believes that student discipline is at the base of students’ future success.

“Discipline is my number one focus. I meet throughout the school year with students to communicate our expectations,” said Cote. “Adolescence is a tumultuous time not only for children, but for their guardians as well. Our job is to help navigate this time. At school, we want to be clear and consistent. At home, guardians need to be involved as much as possible and monitor social media all the time.” 

Cote follows the school’s established Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, which is designed to cultivate a sense of discipline in students while giving them a chance to showcase and develop leadership skills. Throughout the year, the program recognizes students who demonstrate “respectful, responsible, and thoughtful” behavior.

Those students who serve as a good example for others receive numerous accolades, including free treats from the coffee cart, the ability to skip long lunch lines and the chance to enjoy pizza, sweets, and hot chocolate in the library.  

“We try to reward kids for doing good things,” said Cote. “We set expectations and we always award a huge number of kids making right choices every single day.”

Although Wareham Middle School teachers remove students from class for disruptive or defiant behavior, Cote also wants to understand and eradicate the reason behind the wrongdoing. Upon returning from suspension, a student is provided with educational and behavioral interventions, counseling, and student and parent conferencing. 

“We are taking every case individually,” said Cote. “For kids who are continually making poor choices, we are trying to develop a plan so that they can choose to make good choices. They are good kids, they always want to do the right thing, but they don't always know how and they don't always know how to respond in certain situations. It is our job to teach them.” 

Cote’s efforts to improve discipline at the school appear to be paying off. 

Suspensions have dropped dramatically: Between fall 2008 and spring 2018, an average of 181 students annually.

Between September 2018 and April 1 of this year, only 53 students had been suspended.

On average, the middle school suspended 7.6 students per month during the most recent school year through April 1.

In earlier years, an average of 23.1 students were suspended each month.

According to data obtained from School and District Profiles, Wareham Middle School has a 94 percent attendance rate. To be in attendance, students must be present for at least half the school day. 

“I believe that all students and staff deserve an educational environment that is safe, supportive and conducive to the best teaching and learning possible. Our discipline is simply a code of behavior that we expect and hold our students accountable for,” said Cote.

Cote said that the school has high expectations for all students.

“Starting with and ensuring a strong discipline code allows an optimal learning experience for all,” Cote said. “Our core belief is that our students are respectful, responsible and thoughtful in all that they do.”