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Students get a lesson in character
Students at Golden Isles Elementary School got a lesson in good character Friday from a 6-foot tall, slam-dunking fox.

Gutsy the Flying Fox, played by Kirk Johnson who served 12 years as the Sky Hawk mascot for the Atlanta Hawks, was at the school to kick off its Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program for the new year.

The program is designed to promote good behavior and high character in students.

Johnson and his wife, Connie Johnson, wowed all 740 students at Golden Isles with their high flying act that included using a trampoline to perform slam dunks over students and teachers.

But putting on a good show is only half of the purpose, according to Connie Johnson.

"The message is more important than the entertainment factor," she said.

The message turns Gutsy into an acronym -- Give respect, Understand and encourage, Teamwork, Slam dunk bullying and You choose.

"You can listen to all of those things, but it is up to you to actually choose to follow them," Connie Johnson told the crowd.

The lesson matched well with the school's own acronym to teach character. At Golden Isles, students are taught to be Positive, Accountable, Willing and Safe, or PAWS.

So far, teacher Traci Ambrose, the PBIS team leader for the school who is charged with implementing the program, said the program is working.

"In the first three weeks of school, we have seen a 50 percent decrease in office referrals for discipline from last year," Ambrose said.

Bringing in an act like Gutsy drives the lessons home and makes them more memorable for students, said Jessica Hogarth, a teacher on Ambrose's team.

"I think these assemblies are effective. They will remember this," Hogarth said.

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