“Operation Ordinary” Wins State Community Problem Solving Competition for Johnson County Middle School Students

Johnson County Middle School principal Joey Estep’s thoughts on Operation Ordinary include the statement that “this whole project defines what I think education is all about…inspiring others, reaching out, connecting with others”.

Pam Burton, academic team coach, recalls how Brenda Dyers, special needs teacher, came to her and explained that she would like for her students to be more involved in school activities.  Ms. Burton stated that “she had gotten so wrapped up in her own little world that the other students were just invisible to her”.  When her Community Problem Solving (CmPS) students told her they wanted to start Operation Ordinary “to get kids with special needs more involved at school” (Alyssa Willis, 8th grader), her perspective began to change.

Leslie Jeffiers, a 7th grade student, said she “noticed these kids weren’t being included…they sat at different tables at lunch.  I wanted to make a difference and let them feel ordinary”.


Operation Ordinary was launched the second week of October.  Students from the CmPS team began going into Ms. Dyers’s classroom to get to know the ten students.  They gave up their exploratory and fre time periods to participate in the activity.  Alyssa Willis discussed how they got to know the students, helped with their daily lessons and “pretty much just hung out with them”.  Ms. Dyers explained that in her class she has “a collection of disabilities”.  Three of the ten students are nonverbal, some are autistic and some are higher functioning.

At the KVEC FIRE Summit in October, the students were raffling a big stuffed bear to raise money for activities.  They met a man who told them about his handicapped son and he asked them to contact the young boy.  The students were so touched that they purchased enough tickets to win the bear, which they gave to the man’s son.

The CmPS team had other fundraisers, which included a waffle breakfast, bake sales, popcorn sales, and the opportunity for students to purchase icees at the school field day.  Money from these events was used to fund the activities with Ms. Dyers’s class throughout the school year.

Events organized to include the special needs students included a trip to the Pumpkin Patch in West Liberty in October and a scavenger hunt at Christmas that was conducted through quick recall trivia questions created for the class.  In February, Ms. Dyers’s class invited the CmPS team to a Valentine party which they hosted in their classroom.  The ten students were walked to McDonald’s and allowed to order their own food.  A shopping trip was taken to Rue 21, with each student being allotted $25 to purchase items of their choice.


April and May were busy months for the students involved in the project.  Before the 8th grade dance, the students on the CmPS team worked with Ms. Dyers’s class to teach them dance steps.  On the day of the dance, the team did the girls’ nails, hair and make-up.  A couple of the boys had facials and were very involved in the activities.  Corsages were purchased for the girls with money raised by the CmPS team.  At the dance Ms. Burton said their job was “to make sure Ms. Dyers’s kids were involved”.

Recently, field day involved ALL 8th grade students.  Ten teams were randomly formed and were required to rotate through ten stations (i.e., badminton, cornhole, kickball, egg toss, frisbee).  Special needs students assisted with the  icees sales and other items for project fundraising.

The problem solving team recently wrote a letter to the Kentucky Department of Education asking that the curriculum for special needs students be modified “so they’ll get more life lessons, like dealing with money” (Alyssa Willis).

Mr. Estep, principal, said that all students at the Awards Day Ceremony at the end of the semester knew the focus of Operation Ordinary.  He stated the project has “changed the school”.  The principal’s award this year was received by an outstanding student from the resource classroom.

Operation Ordinary, the community problem solving project at Johnson County Middle School, recently won first place at the Governor’s Cup competition in Louisville.  The group will be competing in the International Community Problem Solving competition June 7-11 in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  The winning team was comprised of the following students: Meghan Ratliff, Ava Cochran, Savanna Reinthaler, Alyssa Willis, Brayden Pickle, Ryley Mckenzie, Leslie Jeffiers, Lindsay Cochran and Julia Davis.

Eighth grade students involved in the project plan to begin the same enterprise at the high school in the fall.  They want to see other schools implement Operation Ordinary.  Ms. Burton explained that the “most important thing is that they get other people involved”.

The CmPS team has designed their own Operation Ordinary Facebook page, which challenges people across the world to be a little nicer.  Access to the page is at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Operation-Ordinary-846978462107394/about/?ref=page_internal

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