Eddie Velez

Eddie Velez is the principal at Kennedy High School, a PLC Model School in Fremont, California. He specializes in building PLC culture, implementing RTI, and creating equitable opportunities for all students.

Achieving Equity through Teaching PRIDE

As we set off on our PLC journeys, we are often quick to collaborate for the purpose of Essential Standards, Learning Targets, Common Formative Assessments, and Tier 2 Interventions. In doing so, we often forget the “glue” that keeps things together. As I think about it more, maybe it’s really the “oil” that keeps our RTI machine running. Essential Behaviors and Expectations of our students and staff is the necessary oil that keeps things working. The “will” of a student is so much more essential to learning than the “skill” of a student. Yet over and over, and time after time, we see schools make the critical mistake of jumping into the academic side of the RTI pyramid without simultaneously building the behavior and expectations for staff and students. I think about this as essential behaviors or rules for all students and staff to live by. While it seems like a simple task, getting the entire community to agree on a handful of rules to live by is no easy task. It took us a painstaking three years and endless cycles of revision, voting, discussion, and narrowing down values before we arrived at the center of our culture. In 2018, Kennedy High School finally rolled out PRIDE.

Everything we do at Kennedy revolves around PRIDE. It is the systematic, and often automatic, foundation and response to behavior. So what does PRIDE stand for?

  • Prepared for Learning:
    1. I will arrive on time and am engaged.
    2. I am free of devices and distractions
  • Respectful to All:
    1. I will learn and practice self-regulation
    2. I will learn to have empathy for others
  • Impact:
    1. I know my actions can have a positive or negative impact on myself and others
    2. My daily choices have subsequent consequences and rewards.
  • Discipline:
    1. I will hold myself accountable by setting SMART goals.
    2. Discipline - “Doing what needs to be done, doing it to the best of my ability, and doing it that way every single time” (Knight, 2013, p.9)
  • Explore
    1. What is my “plus”?
    2. What support do I need in order to take risks?

Teach Essential Behaviors to Every Student at Every Opportunity to Do So
The day we arrived at this agreement was a huge day in our school’s history. That being said, we had no idea just how much of an impact this would make. If you just think about this for a moment, a true focus on equity levels the playing field for not just academics, but behavior. I heard Ken Williams speaking about equity and he so eloquently defined equity as the following:

Providing students what they need, when they need it, with urgency (Williams, 2021). I remember taking a minute to reflect on how this applied to our PRIDE culture and immediately started connecting the dots. Think about this concept for a minute. Every student only has 5 rules to live by in order to succeed in this culture. Every class has the same 5 rules. These same 5 rules are enforced between classes, at sporting events, at dances, and we even ask for parents to enforce these rules at home to bring the worlds together. No code switching. No confusion. It is simply clarity and well defined expectations for both students and staff. I knew we were onto something when I observed one of our staff members make the following statement during parent conferences. “I am not a Science teacher at Kennedy. I teach PRIDE at Kennedy. I just happen to use Science as a means to teach it.”

That year, the staff agreed and voted to change our schedule for the first day of school. We voted to have students in Homeroom for the entire morning. The morning was broken into 5 blocks where each teacher taught and discussed the elements of PRIDE. This was our effort to build common understanding from day one. The message was clear. We must first learn PRIDE before we can learn anything else. Once this was done, we had effectively taught Tier 1 essential behaviors. In the subsequent 3 weeks that followed, we had students return to Homeroom during our Titan Up time. (Titan Up is 28 minutes each day that is dedicated for Tier 2 intervention and enrichment). Over the course of the first three weeks of school we effectively taught, discussed, and applied PRIDE to every aspect of life at Kennedy High School.

Create a System that Nurtures the Behaviors Through Engagement, Not Punishment
The final move was to completely redesign our approach to student behavior. This is often referred to as “discipline” but we had already established discipline as a positive trait to set our system apart from others. We developed a simple approach that once again provided fair and equitable approaches to helping students navigate essential behaviors. As part of our restorative approach to behavior, we simply developed 5 questions to ask students every time they exhibited behaviors that were not aligned with PRIDE:

  1. Were you prepared for learning when you…?
  2. Were you respectful to your teacher, your classmates, yourself when you…?
  3. What kind of impact did your actions have on you? On your classmates? On your family?
  4. Were you showing discipline when you…?
  5. Can we explore some options to prevent this from occurring again? What could you have done differently that would have been aligned with PRIDE?

Looking back on this, I can honestly say that this is the most meaningful thing we have done yet with PLC. In the course of the last two years, the number of suspensions has decreased by 40%. More importantly, the suspensions for African American students have decreased by 80%, suspensions for Homeless students have decreased by 80%, suspensions for Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students have decreased by 48%, and suspensions for Special Education Students have decreased by 73%.

Simply put, when students are all given what they need (clear expectations, structure, support), when they need it (at the beginning of the school year and reinforced throughout the year) and with urgency (when they exhibit negative behaviors), you eliminate guessing games and build a culture of equity and understanding. This is how to build equity through the PLC process.


Knight, B. (2013).The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Williams, K. (2021, March 4).Beyond Conversations About Race Virtual Institute.

Solution Tree. https://www.solutiontree.com/beyond-conversations-about-race-virtual-institute.html


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