WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Vigo County School Board discussed two of the corporation’s top priorities over the course of back-to-back meetings held on Monday. 

During the regular school board meeting, officials launched the start of the “B-Kind Challenge” which sets to promote positive behaviors amongst students. It comes on the heels of “Rachel’s Challenge,” which was a series of presentations that took place earlier this year with a similar theme. 

Assistant superintendent of student services Tom Balitewicz said the two programs go hand-in-hand. 

“I think the important part here is we want to build momentum off of Rachel’s Challenge and this idea that being kind can spread out throughout our schools,” he said. “I think this is really a byproduct of that. After watching those presentations and walking away from what they were teaching, I think that’s what came to the minds of many, which is, ‘this is really simple, this is not a complex concept and it’s not a complex lesson to learn.”

The initiative will have different themes in different school buildings, but it all focuses on rewarding students displaying compassion and kindness towards others. Balitewicz also discussed several numbers related to discipline where the corporation has made progress this year, with out of school suspensions and substantiated bullying reports down substantially from the first two months of the 2022 school year. Suspensions have decreased 327 to 216, while substantiated bullying reports have gone from 64 to 35. 

Vigo County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel said while these numbers are “good sign,” he wants to see the trend continue through the school year before he makes any definitive claims. 

“Obviously, it’s too early to know if we turned the corner and so forth,” he said. “But based on the first two months of seeing the significant decrease in out of school suspensions, we believe that that is a good sign we are doing things in the right direction and we are making progress.”

Himsel said the “B-Kind Challenge” displays the corporation’s commitment to curbing student discipline rates. 

“After doing Rachel’s Challenge, we don’t want to just do a presentation and move on, we want to make sure we follow that up and make sure that people understand we are committed to this concept of kindness and helping our kids,” he said.

Before the board meeting, there was a public hearing on the proposed 2024 budget, which sits around $165 million. Himsel said the corporation views feedback from community members as “an important step” in the process.

“Tonight’s an important process in terms of completing the legislative requirements of building that budget, of making sure that we are being transparent and communicating things to the public, making sure the community understands it has the opportunity of asking questions or getting comment, so tonight was a very important step,” he said. 

The board will take a vote on a final proposal during its next meeting on Oct. 23rd.