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Don't worry, it's the principal calling: WMS starts 'Good News Call of the Day'

“I’ve had parents cry,” Baartman said of the phone calls home. “I’ve cried when talking to the parents.”

A Good News Call of the Day post on District 518's Facebook page shows Worthington Middle School principal Toni Baartman, right, with a student, and states: "Jack took the time to help out a fellow student that is new to our district with his iPad, along with how to use Schoology and Notability! Jack is a good friend! Keep it up!"
A Good News Call of the Day post on District 518's Facebook page shows Worthington Middle School principal Toni Baartman, right, with a student, and states: "Jack took the time to help out a fellow student that is new to our district with his iPad, along with how to use Schoology and Notability! Jack is a good friend! Keep it up!"
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WORTHINGTON — The number of students getting called into the principal’s office at Worthington Middle School has skyrocketed this year, with calls to parents on the rise as well, but it’s not because of misbehavior — it’s exactly the opposite: the Good News Call of the Day.

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“We have great kids here. It’s important to show that,” said WMS Principal Toni Baartman, who started making good news calls at a previous school after being challenged to do so by another administrator.

It’s a simple concept. Rather than contacting a parent or guardian only when something has gone wrong, WMS staff keep an eye out for all the positive things students do, like helping others, cleaning up a mess or even apologizing when they do make a mistake. The staff tells the principal about it.

The principal chooses one of the students, calls their parents to let them know about what their student did, and posts a selfie with the student on the school’s Facebook account, Worthington Public Schools.

Occasionally, Baartman has honored a school staff member rather than a student, but either way, she tries to make a Good News Call of the Day every day.

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Often parents who get the calls initially assume something is wrong, but the tone of the conversation changes very quickly when they hear what Baartman has to say.

Baartman with Londyn
A Good News Call of the Day post on District 518's Facebook page shows Worthington Middle School principal Toni Baartman, right, with a student, and states: "Londyn has been so helpful this year! She stops by class in the morning and asks her teacher, Mrs. Pedersen, if she needs help. She is first to volunteer during a demonstration and she is very knowledgeable when it comes to cooking and cleaning up areas. She is amazing, helpful and responsible!"<br/>

“I’ve had parents cry,” Baartman said of the phone calls home. “I’ve cried when talking to the parents.”

She referred to research showing that people generally focus on negative experiences and feedback more than positive feedback, noting that it’s very important to be intentional about looking for positives in life.

“I’m just trying to put a little more sunshine in a day,” she said.

While the “good news” can be academic in nature, more often it’s something a student has done to help others or a way someone has shown kindness to someone else.

“Austin shared what he knew about checks and deposit slips during his Money Management unit in FACS with his class and those at his table,” one Facebook post reads. “It was a great way to start a class discussion in a positive way! Good job, Austin!”

Some students help with tidying up after classes; others help classmates understand an assignment or deal with technical issues.

“This is Antonio! He has been super awesome with helping new students find their way to class and has helped interpret instructions and content, even when it has been tricky for him!” another post states. “He is always eager to answer questions and share his thoughts … he is a rockstar!”

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Sometimes the students aren’t aware of why they’re being called to the principal’s office, but they always leave with a smile, and so far, responses from parents and guardians have been universally positive, Baartman said.

“We have really good kids. We know it, our teachers know it, our community knows it,” she said. “We just need to portray it better… I love the kids, they’re great and they make me smile every day.”

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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