At the premiere of their new school year Tuesday, students at Central Elementary in Lexington walked a red carpet while a pack of parental paparazzi cheered them on. School staff says it wanted to get the kids excited about learning on day one -- because this year, they're going to be doing some things differently.
"We have tremendous students that are wonderful, but some of them have struggled with their behavior," said Ryan Barber, Principal at Central Elementary. "We wanted to create a program that supported what parents were teaching their children at home."
To get some ideas, Central Elementary teachers Catie Brown and Melanie Hickman visited a school in Atlanta during the summer called the Ron Clark Academy. A nationally renowned educator, Clark's philosophy is if you teach kids the importance of teamwork and good behavior, good grades will follow.
"We were absolutely amazed by the students [at Ron Clark Academy], their behavior, the respect and the teamwork," said Hickman. "And we thought it would work here."
When they got back, they and other staff members began creating what they're calling the "Bear Essentials" (Central's mascot is the bear) -- a set of rules and expectations for students that will be incorporated daily into the classroom.
They then sorted all of the kids into four houses -- red, yellow, green, and blue.
"We knew that we needed to do something completely different from what had ever been tried," said Hickman. "And this has definitely caught their attention in more ways than one."
Each day students can earn points for their houses by following the "Bear Essentials" and getting good grades among other things. Any staff member can award points.
"We're hoping that we're going to create a level playing field with the students and adults so they're going to act the same way in front of the principal that they do in front of the guidance counselor, or the custodian, or the lunch ladies, or the bus drivers," said Brown. "We want them to maintain that same level of respect with everyone in the building."
They'll keep track of each house's points on a scoreboard at the front of the school. Whichever house has the most points at the end of each nine-week quarter will earn a special reward.
"We wanted to create an atmosphere where they got something for doing the right thing and not having to ask for it," said Brown.
Brown says this system is directly modeled after a program at the Ron Clark Academy, which got the idea from the Harry Potter series.
"Different is good," said Barber. "I think a lot of the things we do here at Central are good because we do think outside the box.
School staff says they're anxious to watch how the new system plays out -- but if the first day of school is any indication, they're off to a good start.
"We are undertaking some pretty big things this year with the complete understanding that those will be tweaked next year and we'll add some more things or we may take some things away," said Brown. "We're just going to see how it works for our school."