Local schools recognized for character education programs
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 11:56
 by Nicole Rodman

    Four Dundalk-area schools are celebrating after receiving a prestigious statewide honor.
    Bear Creek and Logan elementary schools, Norwood STEM Program and Dundalk High School have been named 2013-2014 Schools of the Year by the Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University (MCCE@SU).
    Each year, the MCCE@SU honors schools across Maryland that have achieved positive results through their character education programs.
    Character education seeks to teach and encourage positive behaviors in students.
    For each of the local schools honored, the positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) system forms the cornerstone of their character education.
    The PBIS system seeks to encourage positive student behavior using proactive positive reinforcement rather than simply relying on reactive punishments.
    At Bear Creek, staff used the PBIS system to create their own program — “The Three R’s.”
    According to school counselor Caitlin McGing, who applied for the MCCE@SU award on Bear Creek’s behalf, teachers at the school emphasize “respectful, responsible and ready (for learning)” behaviors.
    “Those values are being taught everyday by our teachers in how they communicate with students, and it is also what they expect from their students as well,” she explained.
    In addition, the school promotes character building through recycling programs, food kitchen visits and holiday food drives.
    At Logan Elementary, staff members promote positive behaviors through the SOAR (Safe, Organized, Always Responsible, Respectful) program.
    Through the program, students earn SOAR tickets for positive behavior. Students may then use the tickets to buy items from the school store.
    For Logan principal Stephen Bender, he sees the award as an affirmation of the school’s character building program.
    “I was very excited for the school to receive the award,” he said, noting, “It really helps validate all the work we are doing to help our scholars develop skills beyond the schoolhouse.”
    Like the other schools honored, Norwood STEM Program’s character education program focuses on proactive rather than reactive measures.
    According to principal Pat Goldys, however, the school’s program is unique.
    “Norwood Elementary’s Character Education program is different than many others,” Goldys explained. “It is a combination of choice theory, restorative justice practices and responsibility-centered discipline.”
    At Norwood, Goldys explained, staff focus on problem-solving and promoting acts of kindness among students.
    For her part, Goldys acknowledged the entire school community for their part in bringing the MCCE@SU award to Norwood.
    “I was proud of the Norwood teachers, students and parents for achieving this great recognition,” she said.
    Despite facing many challenges — including, economic needs, a high mobility rate among students and a 20 percent special education rate — Dundalk High School has earned the MCCE@SU award twice.
    According to principal Tom Shouldice, the school’s character education program is multi-faceted and seeks to cater to all, including  “students who would fall through the cracks.”
    Through initiatives such as a one-on-one mentoring, teachers work with students to promote positive behaviors.
    Shouldice said this has led to higher attendance and a reduction in dropout rates.
    Though the numbers may not be improving as quickly as he would like, Shouldice is pleased with the progress.
    As he noted, “Through the character education programs at Dundalk High School, our students have taken ownership of their behaviors and are inspiring each other with their generosity.”
    In addition to the four local schools, six other Baltimore County schools were recognized by the MCCE@SU.
    These schools, with schools from across the state, will be honored during the MCCE@SU awards luncheon in October.