Good news sometimes is the best news


I sometimes hear from readers complaining they’re tired of all the “bad news.”

Aren't we all?

Too many people with no shelter from the cold. Not enough beds for those suffering a mental crisis. Drug addiction destroying families. Too many men in power who can’t keep their hands to themselves.

I do believe it's important to report on these issues. If we don’t inform our readers, how can they help find solutions or make informed decisions?

But my heart does leap a little when I hear of something good that’s going on in this rather messed-up world. And when I read Tony Boom’s story on the HUGs program at the Phoenix-Talent School District, I put it on the front page.

HUGs appears to be solving a problem that can bring even the most seasoned teacher to tears: kids in crisis at home disrupting their classes at school. The troubles of a few mean everyone suffers. And the problem grows as many of society’s ills take their toll on children and their parents.

HUGs stands for Hello, Update, Goodbye. Students feeling anxious or being disruptive can go to a room and talk with a coordinator who helps them identify their emotional state, talk about their feelings, and return to their classrooms ready to learn.

When I was a youngster, we either got sent to the principal’s office or got a whack on the behind from a teacher when we misbehaved — both effective in keeping us in line, but it didn’t do much to address what caused our misbehavior to begin with. If we were having troubles at home, too bad.

In the HUGs program at Phoenix Elementary School, teachers first went through a training called Adverse Childhood Experiences, showing how physical and emotional trauma in children affect their ability to learn and, even more alarming, cause mental and physical problems later in life.

Then the teachers evaluated their students and placed them in one of three tiers. Tier Two students may need help at times, while Tier Three students need a more intensive HUGs approach.

Only seven students landed in the third tier. These students meet with program coordinator Jeff Douci each morning and again at the end of the day, checking in with where they are emotionally. Douci says kids in Tier Three are going through significant emotional trauma, and living in that fight-or-flight state of mind inhibits their brain growth in the areas of rational decision-making.

The last thing traumatized children need is more trauma at school. Helping them settle down, realize what's driving their behavior and learn coping skills seems a much better solution that a good scolding or a swat on the behind.

“We are seeing a humongous turnaround and an increase in student classroom learning time,” Principal Jeff Carpenter says.

I’m a newshound through and through, but that’s the kind of news I like best.

— Reach Mail Tribune Editor Cathy Noah at 541-776-4464 or by email at

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