Mike Paget speaks to an audience from Carroll County Public Schools about fostering positive emotional, behavioral and mental health development in students.
Mike Paget speaks to an audience from Carroll County Public Schools about fostering positive emotional, behavioral and mental health development in students. (Catalina Righter / Carroll County Times)

The back-to-school season is ramping up in earnest this week with the publication of bus schedules and the advent of tax-free week in Maryland. For teachers, it’s one of the last weeks to take vacation.

Still, nearly 200 Carroll County Public Schools counselors, educators, psychologists and administrators were gathered at the Best Western in Westminster for a professional development day focused on students with some of the toughest challenges, said Supervisor of School Counseling Judy Klinger.


“The teachers that came today, they’re here on their own time,” she said.

Mike Paget, a consultant for students with severe emotional and behavioral problems, led the day-long seminar. Titled “Wired Differently,” it focused on students who act out in the classroom. Paget talked about how schools can help students with a variety of diagnoses stop disrupting others in the classroom and get what they need out of their education.

Many people may start a career in education without realizing how much behavioral issues are a part of the classroom, he noted.

He recalled meeting a young teacher who said she “just wanted to teach social studies. She didn’t want to deal with all this personality stuff.”

With school around the corner, parents looking for deals with help from Tax-Free Week, which begins Aug. 12

The average family with children K-12 will spend an average of $684.79 each, a figure slightly down from last year’s $687.72, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

Quickly she realized “if she didn’t get skilled in the personality stuff, she’d never get to teach social studies,” he said.

Teacher Bekie Kumar, a Carroll native visiting from Montgomery County, said this concept stood out to her.

“Curriculum is key,” she said. But if students aren’t getting the help they need, they aren’t going to get the curriculum.

Part of the talk touched on specific diagnoses that affect school behavior such as Asperger’s syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder and anxiety disorders.

He addressed school and district-wide practices and case-by-case strategies for working with an individual student.

One audience member asked whether Paget felt disorders like autism and ADHD were being over-diagnosed in children.

Paget said he was more concerned with whether a student’s learning was impaired.

“Are too many people being identified? I don’t know. I’m not sure what I think about that,” he said. “I manage the characteristics. I don’t need the label.”

Klinger was pleased to see CCPS employees who came from a variety of positions. It was not just counselors, or not just teachers, but included administrators and others.

She said Paget’s approach was important because it helps schools teach students good behavior early rather than becoming an atmosphere of constant punishment later.


“Kids will produce [good work] for a teacher they believe cares about them and likes them,” she said.

Part of Paget’s discipline approach is “dignity even for the worst kids,” he said. This not only helps students struggling with behavior, but models for all kids in a classroom that they can expect respect from their teachers.

New superintendent Steven Lockard looks to increase transparency, better track data through 'dashboard'

The concept, unveiled at the last Board of Education work session by new Superintendent Steven Lockard, would be used both internally and externally. Internally, it will help CCPS track and monitor data, and help tie that information the strategic plan.

He came to an important realization while under fire, as he was trying to stop a student intent on biting him in the leg.

“It hit me. My job is not to make kids behave. I can help them learn how to behave. They’ve got to make themselves behave,” he said.

He acknowledged that this isn’t easy, and that defiant students can have savant-level skills at pushing buttons.

Teaching students respect for self, others and property are the goals, but those concepts are abstract.

Schools make concrete goals by identifying specific behaviors to address and practicing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) or similar approaches.

For those unfamiliar with PBIS, he referenced the familiar phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The idea is to look for places that need grease before things get squeaky.

“Everything I’ve been talking about today is about prevention.” he said.

Melissa Leahy, school psychiatrist and Carroll County PBIS coordinator, said the concept is about school-wide expectations for behavior. When students make missteps, they need to be taught what they’re doing wrong, just as they would be with an academic concept.

“It works best when we all work together,” she said.

She said Paget’s seminar presented “wonderful strategies” for goals CCPS has been working toward for a number of years.