- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

SMYRNA, Del. (AP) - For students at Sunnyside Elementary School in Smyrna, the reward for good behavior is a puppy.

He belongs to Principal Deborah Judy and accompanies her to work almost every day. Maybe not a puppy that they can take home, but the next best thing. They get to spend time with Frank, a 14-month-old bulldog who splits his time at school between a beanbag chair in the counselor’s office and one in the principal’s office.

Frank has a calm demeanor, Judy said, and she brought him in to school when he was a young pup at the end of last school year.

“The kids adored him,” she said. This year, he’s been a regular fixture.

They were used to having a dog around since the previous school counselor, Pat VanVeen, who retired in 2014, had brought in several dogs over the years. The school dedicated a tree in front of the building in honor of VanVeen and his most recent dog, Toby.

Having dogs around is “embedded in the culture of Sunnyside,” Judy said.

One of the questions that VanVeen’s replacement got during her interview for the job was: Do you like dogs?

Dina Samonte, who became the school counselor in the fall 2014, has a pug of her own, named Tamara.

A dog in school is also an asset for the counselor to reach some students and reinforce good behavior in others. Having Frank in the office makes children feel more comfortable when they have hard things to talk about, like a divorce in the family, or a death, or even just issues with a friend, said Samonte.

“He really helps,” she said.

Having him to play with and pat makes the kids feel more at ease.

He’s also a good reward for good behavior.

One kindergartner who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was having trouble adjusting to school and making friends, Judy said, so Samonte started rewarding him with Frank time and his behavior turned around.

“It was in him, but he needed the drive and motivation that he wasn’t getting from stickers,” Judy said.

The school now has a system for rewarding students’ good behavior through “paws-itive punch cards.” They get a mark each time they do something good and, when they’ve amassed enough, they get to spend time with Frank.

He also cruises the hallway with Samonte and goes just about everywhere that she does. Except the cafeteria.

“Frank will eat anything you give him,” she said. So, when she’s on cafeteria duty, he stays behind on his beanbag chair.

Overall, she said, “Frank definitely helps.”

___

Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide