By Morgan Bryce
Two years ago, the Opelika Learning Center introduced a new program called the Dog Pound, an initiative designed to incentivize regular attendance, improve punctuality and increase a student’s desire to learn.
Created by OLC Principal Steven Carson, OLC staff and retired Auburn University special education professor Dr. Robert G. Simpson, the program is designed to promote positive behavior and create an opportunity for students to return to their regular school.
“We have five rules: be safe, be punctual, be respectful to all, follow directions and complete your assignments,” Carson said.
Utilizing a points-reward system, students are required to earn 9 out of 10 points Monday-Thursday to earn the right to stay in the Dog Pound during fourth period on Fridays. Points, which are given out by the teachers, can be earned by showing up to school and class on time, being attentive in class and completing 75 percent or more of their classwork each day.
“On Friday, we all come to the hallway and I call the list of the kids who earned enough points to go the pound, and everybody hollers and is excited for the kid that has an opportunity to go,” Carson said.
During their fourth-period break, Carson said students can play board or computer games, text, listen to music, talk with their friends or relax. Periodically throughout the semester, students are eligible to win prizes like Ipods and gift cards, with funds and donations coming from the Opelika City Council and local businesses.
Many OLC students, ranging in age from kindergarteners to high school seniors, come to the school from their regular Opelika City Schools because of academic or behavioral issues.
Since the program’s implementation, Carson said he and his staff have received tremendous student support, and signs that the program is working.
“This program has helped with growing positive behaviors. It has reduced the suspensions, it has decreased the level of student apathy, and it’s been a motivation for the students to earn their way,” Carson said. “I’ve been amazed at how much the children care about it too, how serious they are about their points … it’s been a huge plus for our school.”
For more information about the Dog Pound program and other OLC initiatives, call (334) 741-5603. The school is located at 214 Jeter Ave.