School is all about relationships, according to Lincoln Heights Middle Principal Dr. Jamie Greene.

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve had a front row seat to see how Lincoln Heights Middle has changed,” she said. “I’ve never been more proud of Lincoln Heights Middle School as I am today.”

At Tuesday’s Hamblen County Board of Education meeting, Greene emphasized the value of the relationships of children to adults.

“Over the last few years, we at Lincoln Heights Middle could always say that we felt pretty good about how we built relationships with students,” she said. “We prided ourselves on our positive school culture.”

Last year when Hamblen County was struck by multiple suicide by high school students, the tragedies caused Dr. Greene and her administration to take a long look at relationships.

“How do we really know who is in a good relationship and who is not?” Greene asked. “Students who have strong relationships with adults in school feel safer in school, which creates a feeling of well-being among themselves. They are more likely to be in attendance at school, to stay in school and be engaged in school.”

Greene said that the children who do not have relationships with an adult school are voiceless.

“We decided to put our money where our mouth is and asked kids, ‘who is it you have a relationship with in this school?” she said.

Students were asked to list the names of adults they have a positive, trusting relationship with and who they could go to if they had a personal problem.

With more than 600 students participating, sixth graders sensed that they had the strongest relationships.

The eighth graders felt their relationships were the weakest.

“A lot of that was the fact that they were eighth-graders and they were going through that time in their lives. We’re not going to shove that off, what we are going to do as an eighth-grade team,” Greene said. “It wasn’t surprising, but it was a gut check for us. Where are we putting our male teachers?”

For 22 students, they listed one of the custodial staff as a trusted adult.

“The main thing we found out that 90 of our students had no positive relationship with an adult in the building,” she said. “That hurt our feelings.”

To counter this, the 90 children’s names were written and put on Christmas Trees at the school.

“We asked the faculty to pick a name off the tree and adopt that kid as one they want to build a relationship with,” Greene said.

All adults were invited to participate, including aides, office staff and teachers.

An activity, two by 10, had an adult spend 10 minutes, or check in, with a child for 10 days.

As a result of this program, the school counselor’s role was reexamined.

“The counselor had spent a lot of time testing and scheduling administration,” Greene said. “After the tragedies, the social emotional growth of students in our building was going to have to become a priority. The counselor checked in with all 90 students every week.”

These 90 children, a majority of whom were Hispanic, were given an opportunity to participate in Adventure Quest, a team building program. When going through the list of 90 children, they were checked to see if they were involved in an activity at school. Douglas-Cherokee also offers after-school programs that provide transportation for children.

Another activity included Lincoln United, the first Hamblen County middle school soccer club.

“We had Coach Wolfe and a couple of teachers who know nothing about soccer to stay after school on a regular basis to make sure these kids stayed after school to have something to do so they could connect to the school and build these relationships,” Greene said. “These are the kind of things that make the difference in lives. If we don’t make relationships as important as rigor, we can never get to the academics. I’m proud of my school and my teachers who work hard every day to make sure these kids not only come in to a safe, happy culture and environment, but they are making positive connections and relationships with teachers.”

Greene prepared for her duties by serving years at Lincoln Heights under current Morristown East Principal Joseph Ely before he was appointed to East. She also taught at LHMS from 2002 to 2010.

Students in the Hamblen County summer reading program were rewarded at the meeting with a new bicycle.

“We challenge students to read books over the summer,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff Perry said. “Grades kindergarten through five have to read 25 books, grades six to eight read one book and have corresponding projects with that. Each school has a winner and will receive a new bike.”

More than 350 students in the system completed the reading logs to qualify for the bicycle drawing.

Winners include Makenzie Tolliver from Alpha, Kaley Gaby of East Ridge, Leslie Guererro of Fairview-Marguerite, Noah Wilburn of Hillcrest, Lorelai Tharp of John Hay, Christian Harrell of Lincoln Heights Elementary, Brandon Hernandez of Lincoln Heights Middle, Caleb Shepherd of Manley, Elise Reed of Meadowview, Seth Mosley of Russellville, Ashlyn Rhea of Union Heights, Amy Sanchez of West Elementary, Jonathan Rivera of West View Middle, Brody McGee of Whitesburg and Dakota Johnson of Witt.