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by Dr. John Urkevich,
Executive Director

Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis dedicated its CHARACTERplus office building in honor of the program’s founder, Sanford N. McDonnell, on May 4, 2011. The Sanford N. McDonnell Center for CHARACTERplus is located next to CSD’s main office on Craig Road in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

In 1988, McDonnell founded CHARACTERplus with seven school district members and four corporate sponsors who believed in the importance of addressing issues related to student character, responsibility and student achievement. Today, more than 85 school districts and schools take part in the program, reaching more than 600 schools, 25,000 teachers and more than 300,000 students throughout Missouri and Illinois.

Many long-time supporters of CHARACTERplus attended the dedication, including some who were involved in the program from the beginning. In addition, members of VFW Post 6211 in Maryland Heights posted our nation’s colors. Another CSD neighbor, Parkway School District’s Craig Elementary School, had their choir sang the National Anthem. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley was in attendance and thanked McDonnell for his efforts and declared May 4 as “Sanford N. McDonnell Day” in St. Louis County. Don Senti, who will be taking over as CSD Executive Director in July, was also on hand for the dedication.

CHARACTERplus works to advance the cause of character education and sustain its impact on the lives of educators and students by:

• designing, promoting and facilitating processes and best practices;
• serving educators and enhancing their commitment to character education;
• actively recruiting and developing community support; and
• continually evaluating the impact of our programs and services.

Because of the efforts of Sandy McDonnell and members of the CHARACTERplus staff, a large number of National Schools of Character come from the St. Louis region. This year alone, 15 of the 44 winners are CHARACTERplus member schools. They received recognition as 2011 National Schools of Character by the Character Education Partnership (CEP).

CHARACTERplus is a program of CSD. The recognized St. Louis-area schools are:

1.     Babler Elementary School, Rockwood School District
2.     Bayless Elementary School, Bayless School District
3.     Bowles Elementary School, Rockwood School District
4.     Crestwood Elementary School, Lindbergh School District
5.     Fox Middle School, Fox School District
6.     Geggie Elementary School, Rockwood School District
7.     George Guffey Elementary, Fox School District
8.     Kellison Elementary, Rockwood School District
9.     Lincoln Elementary, Troy School District
10.  Lindbergh High School, Lindbergh School District
11.  Mark Twain Elementary School, Brentwood School District
12.  Renfro Elementary School, Collinsville (Illinois)
13.  St. Louis Charter School
14.  Uthoff Valley Elementary, Rockwood School District
15.  Woerther Elementary, Rockwood School District

The goal of the National Schools of Character program is to recognize all schools and districts that demonstrate an exemplary level of implementation of Character Education Partnership’s Eleven Principles of Effective Character Education (click here to read that list of principles). Applicants shared school lesson plans, reflections, policies, agendas, data and photographic documentation with CEP. According to CEP, the recognized schools will receive a grant to help other educators transform their school cultures and improve academics and behavior by acting models and mentors.