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Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) onto the School Bus
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Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) onto the School Bus

Wausau School District, Wausau, Wis.


In 2008, the Wausau School District began phasing in Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a multi-tiered student behavior system centered on data analysis, evidence-based practices, positive culture and systematic implementation. At the core of PBIS is the understanding that children are dealing with very different needs when it comes to social and emotional development. When behavioral interventions are needed, they have to be consistent to be effective. The district is part of the Wisconsin PBIS Network, which provides its members technical assistance: coalition building, needs assessment and data analysis. Five years later, the Wausau School District made a push to expand PBIS to its student transportation program. First Student began working in close partnership with the school district to help accomplish its goal.


The Wisconsin PBIS Network’s External Coach for the Wausau School District, Kathy Guthman, noticed a trend in student conduct data which sparked a discussion about the next major phase of the district’s PBIS program. “Looking at their SWIS [school-wide information system] data for rural schools, I found the school bus to be the third highest problem area after the classroom and playground.” And with a portion of the district’s at-risk student population moving frequently within the district and between schools — sometimes three to four times per year — that data made sense to school staff. Wausau School District Chief Finance and Business Services Officer Bob Tess puts it another way, “If you think of a typical class period being 40 minutes, a child easily spends that amount of time on the bus in a school day. We had an untapped opportunity to make a positive impact.” For the expansion to be successful, students and families would need to hear the same PBIS language, rules and expectations in the schools and on the bus.

Download the case study to see how First Student and the district developed program tools, including a standard communication flow and a jointly administered bus behavior acknowledgement system, Bus Bucks.

“What I see is improved school climate, improved sense of belonging and sense of community. Strong, positive relationships have resulted from collaboration and working as a team.”

Kathy Guthman, Wisconsin PBIS Network’s External Coach

First Student continues to proudly serve the Wausau School District.