Kansas schools, districts honored in Character Recognition Program

At David Brewer Elementary, students gather in the gym every morning for a short pep talk, ending with a high-five to the person on one side of them and to the person on the other side, they shake hands and proclaim, “You are amazing.” 

At Anthony Elementary, teachers visit low-income apartments, bringing food and other assistance to students and their parents. 

Both schools in Leavenworth USD 453 were recognized Wednesday as 2019 Kansas Schools of Character during a ceremony at the Brown v. Board National Historic Site in Topeka. The schools are being considered along with 85 others across the country for national recognition, which will be announced later this month. 

In addition, 20 Kansas schools and districts were honored for Shifting School Culture and Enhanced Spotlight under the Schools of Character program, which recognizes schools and districts that have worked to improve social, emotional and character development. The program is sponsored by Character.org, the Kansas State Department of Education, National Park Service and the Smoky Hill Education Service Center. 

Political and education officials were on hand to congratulate the schools and note the importance of helping students progress socially and emotionally through character development. 

Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, a former member of the Wichita USD 259 school board, noted Kansas was one of the first states where women could vote and was the home of the lead plaintiff in the Brown v. Board decision that declared racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional. “Both of those took character and courage,” Rogers said. He also noted Kansas was the first state to develop social, emotional and character standards for schools. 

Leavenworth Mayor Jermaine Wilson talked about his journey from a young criminal, who through his religious faith and gaining an education, straightened out his life to win election. Now he works in the community, often alongside teachers, to try to keep children out of trouble. 

“I see how the teachers go inside the apartment complex. They serve food, provide clothes, they meet with parents, and the students are right there. It’s not just affecting our schools, it’s affecting our entire community,” he said. 

Myron Melton, a consultant for KSDE, said the state’s emphasis on social and emotional growth of students is extremely important. “Not many years ago, we were not talking about social and emotional growth,” Melton said. “But without social and emotional growth and character development, learning doesn’t happen.” 

Social, emotional and character development is one of the main pillars of the State Board of Education’s goals, along with improving pre-kindergarten readiness, graduation rates, individual plans of study and post-secondary success.

Other speakers at the event included State Board of Education member Janet Waugh of Kansas City and Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander. For more information on how to become a School of Character, go to Character.org 

Other Kansas schools and districts that received recognition were: 

Shifting School Culture Recognition 

   Beloit Junior-Senior High School, Beloit USD 273  

    Central Elementary School, Olathe USD 233 

    Cottonwood Elementary School, Salina USD 305 

    David Brewer Elementary School, Leavenworth USD 453  

    Derby Hills Elementary School, Derby USD 260 

    Jackson Heights Schools, North Jackson USD 335 

    Kansas City USD 500 

    Meade Elementary and Junior High Schools, Meade USD 226 

  Enhanced Spotlight Recognition 

   Beloit Elementary School, Beloit USD 273 

    Caldwell USD 360 

    David Brewer Elementary, Leavenworth USD 453 

    Jackson Heights Schools, North Jackson USD 335 

    Meadowlark Elementary School, Pittsburg USD 250 

    Northern Valley District USD 212 

    Olathe West High School, Olathe USD 233 

    Oxford USD 358 

    Spring Valley Elementary School, Geary County USD 475  

    Starside Elementary School, De Soto USD 232 

    Stockton Grade School, Stockton USD 271 

    Walnut Elementary School, Emporia USD 253 

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