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Schoolchildren sent to the office get to touch base with Snoopy and call home


Ringggggg! Ringgggg!

Hi, Mom. It's Sarah. I'm in the principal's office. . .

No, I'm not in trouble. Yes, I feel OK. I'm calling on the Snoopy Phone.

Snoopy Phone?

At Laurel Woods Elementary School, dozens of children are sent to the office every day, not because they're in trouble, but because Principal Tricia Tidgewell wants the students to tell their parents about the good things they did in school that day.

They call over a telephone that is shaped like the "Peanuts" cartoon character Snoopy and which Ms. Tidgewell has connected outside her office.

Fourth-grader Sarah Blackwell and her sister Rachel, a first-grader, call home on the phone every week or two. Still, their mother sometimes forgets they're calling to report something good.

"When I say I'm in the office, she asks, 'Are you sick or something?' " Sarah said.

But Ms. Blackwell is getting used to it, now.

"It's just a marvelous thing for these kids and for me, too," Ms. Blackwell said. "My daughter [Rachel] called me one day just to say, 'I'm having a good day, Mom.' That meant so much. It's such a confidence booster."

All day long, children line up at the phone, about four or five students every 10 minutes or so. They wait anxiously with the kind of smile children wear when they're about to get a new toy.

"Hi, Mommy. I had a good day," says Bernie Gilmore, a second-grader who was sent to the office for good behavior in art class.

"I won first place!" fifth-grader Lauren Tangredi tells her father over the Snoopy Phone. She and classmate Erica Brotzman won a computer contest for making a newspaper with desktop publishing.

Erica grabs the phone after Lauren, excited and anxious to make a call. "It makes the back of your legs feel like Jello," she says.

Antonia Moore, a third-grader, called home to say she got an "A" on her spelling test.

"Yes!" she shouted. "I'm getting something special when I get home."

Antonia has spelling class with teacher Tom Cole, who says he looks forward to sending at least one "A" student to see the principal each day.

"I tell them, 'You have to go to the office right now. Take the Snoopy Pass.' The kids actually look forward to going to the office."

Ms. Tidgewell, who has worked as a principal for 16 years, started the Snoopy Phone tradition 15 years ago when she was a principal in Minnesota. She brought her own Snoopy telephone with her to Maryland when she moved here two years ago.

The Snoopy Phone at Laurel Woods was first connected the middle of last school year and now is a regular part of Laurel Woods life.

"I like it, because sometimes you forget to tell your Mom if you're good in school," said Jenny Sampogna, a fourth-grader who used the Snoopy Phone when she got a math problem right that all of the fifth-graders got wrong.

Ms. Tidgewell sees the practice as something that reinforces important educational principles.

"Something that is very important to me is focusing on positive behavior," said Ms. Tidgewell, a mother of four grown children. "The news ranges from an academic accomplishment to something nice they've done. It's important that we catch children being good."

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