Thoreau Middle School

Thoreau Middle School

How one New Mexico School Reduced Referrals by Implementing Kickboard 


Thoreau Middle School is located in Thoreau, New Mexico in the Gallup-McKinley County School District and serves 246 students in sixth through eighth grades. 

Thoreau Middle School
Gallup-McKinley County Middle School 
Grades 6-8

  • 93% American Indian/Navajo
  • 3% White
  • 2% Hispanic
  • 2% Other 
  • 100% free/reduced lunch

Heather Gutierrez came to Thoreau Middle School as the principal in January of 2018. The school did not have a PBIS structure in place and it affected student behavior. Students were not adhering to expectations and were not listening to the teachers. Staff felt that students were controlling the culture of the school and felt powerless. Gutierrez knew as soon as she arrived in the middle of the year that the school desperately needed something in place to help with the drastic behavior issues occurring daily. 

At the time, Thoreau Middle did not have a PBIS system in place that detailed how teachers should respond to the most minor classroom behaviors, let alone more major out of class behavioral referrals. Teacher and student interactions were mostly negative due to not having a consistent system in place to reward positive behavior choices. Gutierrez had just come from an elementary teaching position so she knew this school needed PBIS, but was not sure how to implement that with middle school students and teachers. 

Gutierrez and her leadership team observed that some teachers on staff had fixed mindsets around implementing a PBIS program. These teachers were not seeing the need to reward and address behavior because students were not performing on grade level academically. They did not see the benefit of focusing on culture during meetings, professional development, and coaching sessions. In order for the PBIS program to work, Thoreau Middle School needed all teachers to buy into and use the program consistently.

After taking the pulse of where the school was, Principal Gutierrez decided to craft goals to make positive changes at Thoreau Middle School:


Choose a PBIS Partner 

Principal Heather Gutierrez shared her vision and the necessity for PBIS at Thoreau Middle School with district leaders. The district had funding to support this and asked her to research PBIS programs to determine which would be best. She found Kickboard and knew it would support her with rolling out a successful PBIS system schoolwide. 

In addition to the Kickboard software, Gutierrez took advantage of Kickboard’s professional services, which included a coach that led her team through schoolwide strategic planning where they created the school’s behavior matrix, set schoolwide goals, crafted consistent schoolwide consequences, and planned professional development for empowering teachers and introducing them to the Kickboard platform.

Institute a Positive Recognition

Thoreau Middle School leaders also created a schoolwide incentive system for students based on their Kickboard points per week. Teachers used Kickboard to record student behaviors and track “Hawk Bucks” for points earned. Students quickly became excited about the implementation of this new incentive and often inquired about their Hawk Buck balance to teachers.

Students at Thoreau who earned 50 points in one week earned Dress Down Friday and students who earned 75 points or higher earned Fun Friday Celebrations. Each grade level determined what game or activity the students did each week and one teacher hosted and ran the celebration. Thoreau continues to focus on this area by brainstorming different celebration ideas to keep students motivated and bought into the PBIS program over time.

Create a Flowchart of Behavioral Procedures

With the help of their Kickboard Coach, Thoreau Middle School leaders created a classroom management flowchart for behavioral procedures. All teachers were trained in understanding the flowchart and using it in action to ensure consistency across the entire staff. The flowchart clearly detailed the appropriate teacher response for specific student actions. For example, when students were tracked for a certain number of negative interactions within a day, they immediately were flagged to write a behavior reflection. The Thoreau flowchart listed specific steps for student consequences like reporting to the counselor, meeting with the grade level team, or meeting with the principal. The flowchart was consistently used in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) and coaching meetings to ensure teachers understood the system and that everyone was using it with fidelity.

Teachers knew that administrators would hold them accountable to the system. If a student was sent to the office and Principal Gutierrez did not see any interactions logged into Kickboard, she would send the student back to class with a note stating, “If it didn’t happen in Kickboard, it didn’t happen.” This puts the responsibility on the teacher to follow the PBIS system step by step. If a teacher has not done their part to log interactions in Kickboard then Gutierrez cannot understand the root causes of the student behavior. This helped remind teachers that they need to be consistently logging interactions into Kickboard and using the PBIS system faithfully.

Analyze Kickboard Data for Equity 

While analyzing the behavior data that teachers had tracked in Kickboard, teachers realized there was a discrepancy for a subset of students. This group had excellent behavior but were not receiving the same volume of Hawk Bucks on Kickboard as their peers who struggled more with behavior. 

Students that were not making good behavior choices were actually receiving a larger volume of Hawk Bucks than this subset of students with impeccable behavior because teachers were using the system more with struggling students to acknowledge when they made positive choices. Teachers analyzed their Kickboard data to determine which students in their classes fit into that subset of excellent behavior but had misaligned points. Teachers then created a plan to intentionally reward those students throughout the week so that Hawk Buck balances were aligned with the reality of student behavior. 

Use Kickboard Data for Principal-Student Behavior Conferencing

Initially, Principal Gutierrez spent a lot of her time “putting out fires” and dealing with various types of minor behavioral issues around the school. Once teachers and leaders at Thoreau started using and following the PBIS plan and flowchart, student behavior improved across the board. As a result of this, Principal Gutierrez did not have to assist around the building with smaller behavior issues and needed to only hold conferences with students for major misbehaviors. This helped Gutierrez spend more of her time on coaching, administration, and major issues. 

Now, when students are sent to her office, Gutierrez signs in to Kickboard and looks for the interactions that have been logged by the referring teacher. At this point, their motto holds true, “If it did not happen in Kickboard, it did not happen.” She either sends students back to class if the interactions were not logged into Kickboard or the students stay and they have a conversation about the Kickboard records. Together, Principal Gutierrez and the students analyze the data to find trends, patterns with time of day and teachers, and notes. She uses this data to create new behavior goals with students. 

Use Kickboard Data During Coaching Walkthroughs and Trainings

Principal Gutierrez now uses Kickboard regularly for coaching and staff training. She models positive narration for teachers when doing classroom walkthroughs and in common areas. During walkthroughs, Gutierrez points out when noteworthy interactions take place and has teachers log interactions into Kickboard. Students are then rewarded with Hawk Bucks.

During staff meetings, leaders highlight and celebrate teachers who have the highest number of interactions recorded and the strongest positivity ratios. This helps acknowledge those doing well but also serves as a reminder to others of the school’s expectations around PBIS usage. When issues arise with PBIS implementation, leaders review the flowchart with staff and discuss the step by step procedures. 

Thoreau Middle School engages in Culture Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) every Friday where staff analyze data then collaborate with each other. Teachers analyze behavior and positivity trends of grade levels, classes, and individuals, then determine action steps to ensure improvement. Allowing teachers to learn from their own data makes the work of attaining school culture goals a group effort rather than only leadership driven.

Adjust Hiring Processes

Principal Gutierrez decided that Thoreau needed to refine what the hiring team looked for in future staff members. It was important that their new hires had an open mindset towards positive behavior systems and staff professional development focusing on positive school culture. This helped ensure that new teachers were open to coaching around culture, bought into the PBIS system, and understood that using the system is a non-negotiable. 



Within five months of the Kickboard implementation, Thoreau Middle School had reduced behavior referrals by 23% from the previous year. 

Before Kickboard, teachers and leaders had been inundated with behavioral issues at Thoreau. Their school culture suffered greatly in the areas of bullying and physical altercations before Gutierrez became Principal. After implementing PBIS, there was not a single fight at Thoreau Middle School.

Kickboard has helped Thoreau Middle School improve their behavior and school culture over time with the implementation of a PBIS system. Thoreau used Kickboard resources like staff training and leader support in developing and rolling out an entirely new PBIS system which has helped them achieve positive behavior results. 

Together, the Kickboard software and leadership coaching are pushing our schools to think differently about what makes students and teachers successful, how they can create stronger cultures, and how they can sustain this improvement over time.


Are you ready to transform your school?

Or call (877) 873-1550