All school year long, Ventnor Middle School eighth-grader Janae Isaacs kept herself out of trouble, not once acting up or talking back. And when Isaacs immersed her favorite teachers in a tub of water June 18, it wasn't out of character - it was good, clean fun.
Janae was one of 308 Ventnor Middle School students invited to take part in the school's annual Super Extravaganza, which rewards students who have clean discipline records with food, games and every student's favorite piece of pop quiz payback, the dunk tank.
"I do everything, try to get all the sections," Janae said. "I like the dunk tank, though. It's fun."
The Super Extravaganza was started six years ago by teacher Jessica Shannon who reasoned that if students who misbehave are punished, those who don't should be rewarded. Shannon ran the event for three years before leaving it in the hands of colleague Kristin Aponte when she went on maternity leave.
In the years since the program was established, it has grown both in terms of its offerings and attendance. Aponte solicits donations from area groups and businesses, which allow her to afford new attractions, in turn enticing more students to be on their best behavior.
Shannon, who is now a stay-at-home mom living in Brick Township, visited the school June 18 with her 3-year-old, Alexandra, and 15-month-old, Samantha. She said she was glad to see how the program has grown.
"It's just ... it's amazing," Shannon said. "It's grown bigger and bigger with more for the kids to do. You've got more donations, we've had more community support, but there's also more kids because each year the kids see what they want to do."
The school also offers smaller, quarterly extravaganzas for students who keep out of trouble each marking period. These extravaganzas can be movie nights, dances, field trips or other events.
These extravaganzas were brought to the school by Principal Robert Baker when he joined the school 13 years ago. He got the idea from Mays Landing's Hess Educational Complex, where he served as an assistant principal before taking the job in Ventnor. He also implemented monthly character seminars - another Hess innovation - at his new job.
These two programs have been successful in reducing behavior issues, Baker said, and the Super Extravaganza has had the biggest impact. About 60 percent of students were invited to the first Super Extravaganza, by Baker's estimation, compared to about 80 percent at the most recent.
While the high attendance at the June event is a testament to its effectiveness, Baker said he sees its impact year-round.
"The kids, they come in the first day, they're thinking about this," Baker said. "When something happens, they get in a little bit of hot water, the first thing they say is, 'Am I going to lose my Super Extravaganza?'"
Students whose records disqualify them from attending the event get the day off, watching movies inside the school.
Still, there's no denying the model citizens get the better deal - and it's well deserved, Shannon said.
"You can't say enough positive things about it," Shannon said. "I think it's just absolutely wonderful for them."
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