Creating a School Culture that Makes Kids Want to Return

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Love, Founding Dean of Culture at our partner school Vanguard Collegiate of Indianapolis, and was thrilled to learn more about Vanguard’s success using Schoolrunner to promote a positive school culture. 

As he reflected on what’s worked so well, Rob explained how Vanguard is leveraging Schoolrunner to improve student outcomes and positively impact the entire school community.

School Context

Founded in August 2019 by former BES fellow Robert Marshall, Vanguard is a 5-8th grade college preparatory charter school located in the Haughville neighborhood on Indianapolis’ West Side.

Vanguard Founder, Robert Marshall, with students Tristan Carter, Jania and Jordyn Thomas

Vanguard students and their families share a rich heritage and feel a great sense of pride in the neighborhood. However, this community — which has been designated a zone for rapid development — experiences severe economic distress.

Vanguard serves a vast population of students of color who come from historically marginalized communities. This means students feel the impact of structural racism and cycles of generational trauma in their day-to-day lives.

Given this context, the single most pressing priority for Rob, as Dean of Culture, is to create a safe and consistent learning environment. 

This requires the successful development and implementation of school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Vanguard’s PBIS model is trauma-informed — Restorative Practices and Mindfulness are integral to their approach.

“Our hybrid PBIS-Restorative model is a testament to our culture,” Rob told me. “Even when it’s chaotic outside of school, kids want to return here.”

PBIS and Vanguard Bucks

Vanguard takes a very pragmatic approach to PBIS, incorporating elements of character development and financial literacy through the use of Vanguard Bucks. Everyday, students earn Vanguard Bucks for demonstrating behaviors that embody T.H.I.N.K. — Team, Hard Work, Integrity, Nobility, and Knowledge. Tying behaviors to values is essential to Vanguard’s belief that students with a well-developed character will be more equipped to positively impact themselves, their communities, and the world around them.  

Using Schoolrunner’s comprehensive Behaviors module, teachers and administrators at Vanguard are able to easily log these student behaviors in real time on the Schoolrunner site or mobile app.

Vanguard’s Schoolrunner site is configured according to the specific behaviors and core values they are interested in monitoring, with each behavior correlating to a specific dollar amount. For example, scholars receive $10 in Vanguard Bucks each day they show up to school ready to learn. They also earn Vanguard Bucks for behaviors such as cleaning their work stations, helping with technology, and tutoring their peers.

To log these behaviors in Schoolrunner, all teachers and administrators have to do is click on a student’s name, select the behavior, and save it. If they want to assign the same behavior to multiple students, they have the option to multi-select individual students’ names or save a behavior to an entire group. They are also able to tag a specific location and core value to the behavior in addition to leaving detailed comments if they choose.

Assigning the behavior of “helping a classmate” to multiple students on Schoolrunner’s Behaviors Page

As soon as the behavior is logged, the details become accessible to multiple members of the school community (i.e. teachers, administrators, families, and students), allowing all stakeholders to communicate effectively.

Schoolrunner allows us to have direct communication with families regarding positives and areas of growth for their student on a week to week basis. It allows me to have quality conversations with staff on ‘resetting’ with students and their behaviors.” — Rob Love, Vanguard Dean of Culture

Paychecks and Platinum Vanguards

At the end of each week, students receive a paycheck, also known as a Schoolrunner Slip. The slip provides a running record of all behaviors logged for the week and shows students’ total balance in Vanguard Bucks. 

Rob uses Schoolrunner to print slips en masse. Slips are then sent home and students are required to bring them back on Fridays with a parent signature in order to be able to use their Vanguard Bucks. Schoolrunner Slips foster accountability, incentivizing students to work with teachers on how they can improve their behavior each week.

“Schoolrunner takes care of the parts that I don’t have the time or capacity to oversee during the course of a busy school day. It does the heavy load in providing quick, easy access to data, allowing me to do more of the person-to-person work.” –Rob Love, Dean of Culture

Students have opportunities to spend their Vanguard Bucks in a number of ways. They can use them for “Dress Down Fridays,” field trip eligibility, or lunch outside, for instance. Students might also get a shoutout from staff in recognition for being a top Vanguard Bucks owner.  

Top Vanguard Bucks owners being celebrated at a school assembly

Students who are really meeting expectations are celebrated at assemblies and have access to the Platinum Vanguard Room, a game room with a stocked mini-fridge, a place for kids to just hang out and call their own.

Students hanging out in the Platinum Vanguard Room


Rob is proud of Vanguard’s culture, and he recognizes that having quick and easy access to real-time data has been crucial. Schoolrunner has helped inform the implementation of a learning environment in which students feel equipped to think through their choices and supported in making positive ones.  

Last year, Vanguard met its goal of achieving a 2:1 positive to negative ratio for student behaviors, and they are aiming to maintain that high level of support for students again this school year.

To learn more about Vanguard’s trauma-informed PBIS model and hear from Rob himself about his experience using Schoolrunner, join us for our next webinar on Friday, 9/27 at 12:00pm CST. And, as always, reach out to us if you’d like explore how Schoolrunner can support your school community. 



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *