School Receives Safety Award – December 1999

Patti Magee
The Californian – 12/99

MURRIETA – E Hale Curran Elementary School has won a Golden Bell Award in the school safety award category from the California School Boards Association for its program to promote playground safety.

The program, called Peaceful Playgrounds, was implemented by former principal Melinda Bossenmeyer in 1995 after she noticed an increase in the number of students sent to the principal’s office for fighting, arguing and other misbehavior on the playground.

She said Friday she developed the program 20 years ago when she was teaching in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

The program includes a set of rules, ways to resolve conflicts and encouraging children to play games that allow greater participation such as tetherball and four-square. One day each week, playground aides teach the kids rules to a new game from among the more than 100 that are part of the school safety award winning program.

“The program is intended to maximize the number of students involved in physical activities, and reduce the number standing around talking,” said Angela Haick, assistant principal. “They get the chance to burn off some their energy so they are more focused when they return to class.”

She said she didn’t have figures on how many student referrals there were each year before Peaceful Playground was implemented. However; figures seem be down this year from last year.

In 1998-99, there were 147 referrals involving 89 students, and so far this year; with the school year almost half over; there have been 50 referrals involving 38 students, Haick said. “We also used to have a committee of students who helped solve conflicts on the playground, and there were so few of them we disbanded the committee two years ago,” she added.

Bossenmeyer; now director of the North County Program Development Federation at California State University San Marcos, said the number of playground injuries also dropped 66 percent between 1995 and 1998, when compared with 1992 through 1995.

The award will be presented at the CSBA’s award luncheon Dec. 11, being held in conjunction with its annual education conference at the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco. Murrieta Valley Unified School District Superintendent Chet Francisco, David Koltovich and Angela Haick, principal and assistant principal at E. Hale Curran, respectively; and playground aide Geri McGuire will accept the award. Bossenmeyer wlll also attend.

“We’re proud of our students and this shows what we can accomplish when we all work together,” Haick said.

The Golden Bell program, now in its 20th year, recognizes exemplary achievement in 12 areas. Besides school safety; other categories are curriculum, English language acquisition, instruction, professional development and technology.

This year about 60 awards are being presented overall out of about 300 nominations, said James Morante, CSBA spokesman.