Centreville Elementary and Kent Island High Schools Receive Character Education Awards

By: Ashley Winterstein

Each year, the Maryland Center for Character Education recognizes schools across the state for their hard work in character education. Queen Anne’s County is the home of two out of the thirty-eight recipients of this year’s “School of the Year Award.” Both Kent Island High School and Centreville Elementary School were honored for their character development programs at a luncheon held at Hunt Valley Catering on September 25, 2008.

The keynote speaker at the luncheon, Dr. Tom Lickona of the State University of New York, reminded the audience of the importance of developing both moral character and performance character. This combination will produce a strong work ethic and responsible citizenship, while building positive attitudes and relationships. Denise Hershberger, principal of Kent Island High School and attendee of the luncheon, agrees, stating that character “is the foundation of a civil society.” Our guidance is necessary now in order to ensure that our students become the citizens and leaders that our country needs.

Hershberger is honored to be a recipient of this year’s award, especially being at the high school level and relatively new to the Character Counts! program. This is the second year Character Counts! has been a part of the Ninth Grade Academy of Kent Island High School in its present format, but its presence began with the Map Advisory and Peer Leadership programs many years ago. The respect pillar is the cornerstone of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Program practiced throughout the high school, but the character coaches at the Ninth Grade Academy reinforce the idea by encouraging the students to respect others, self, learning, and property every day. They also begin each day at the Academy with “Words of Wisdom” on the morning announcements, which include messages to promote positive choices. The message always ends with “Make it a great day or not … the choice is yours.” Kaylene Kovach, Assistant Principal at the 9th Grade Annex, explains that, “Our intent is not to take over parenting in this department, but to help reinforce what parents are teaching their children at home. We have to continue to be partners with parents and work together to support each other stressing the importance of both academics and character education.”

The six pillars of character have also been firmly integrated into the daily lives of the students at Centreville Elementary School for the past seven years. Recognition of positive behavior is one way the teachers and staff are building character. Students who are caught exhibiting good behavior by helping one another, cleaning up in the lunchroom, listening well to a speaker, or any number of constructive actions are rewarded with a ‘positive referral’. Principal Jean Cupani, Guidance Counselor Lynn Lienemann, and the parents of the child are all notified of the referral and pictures are taken to commemorate the special event. This creates an excitement for behaving responsibly and respectfully.

Cupani, who also attended the luncheon, is thrilled to receive the “School of the Year Award” because it recognizes the school for the accomplishments they have made as a team. Lienemann agrees stating, “This award recognition is a result of the hard work of the Character Counts! Coaches, teachers, students, and parental support from the community.” Cupani felt the luncheon was a great way to validate the steps Centreville Elementary School is already taking to build character and also acquire new ideas and resources to add to the programs next year.

Dr. Carol Williamson, Superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, shares the enthusiasm and pride of the staff at Kent Island High School and Centreville Elementary School by stating, “I am very proud of both of these schools for achieving this recognition. Both schools have worked very hard to support the pillars of character
in all interactions between staff and students and between students and students. Additionally, they have integrated the pillars into the very fabric of the instructional day.”

Character Counts! would also like to congratulate the staff and students of both Kent Island High School and Centreville Elementary School for their achievement in receiving the 2008 Character Education Award. If you have any questions or comments about Character Counts!, please feel free to contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or at jcarter@qac.org.