TITLE of BEST PRACTICE:Principle 1:
The school community promotes core ethical and performance values as the
foundation of good character.
Principle 1: Promotes core ethical values as the basis
of good character.
The mission of Stephen Decatur High School is not only to create productive
citizens and lifelong learners, but also to create compassionate, responsible,
and civic minded community members. We accomplish this through instructional
excellence in partnership with family and community and by maintaining
a safe, caring, and well maintained environment. We value our partnership
with the community and embrace every opportunity to teach our students
core ethical values as the basis of good character.
Ask any of our students, past or present, and, without a doubt, each can
recite the motto of Stephen Decatur High School: The Decatur Way: The
Way to Grow . . . Pride, Achievement, Respect, and Responsibility. Each
and every day, it is our goal to demonstrate these values and provide
opportunities for our students to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually
with these values as a foundation. Our action plan includes numerous ways
for our school team to implement character development
Character Education Lessons: Every month, we celebrate a theme for
character development. In addition to school-wide mini lessons, we broadcast
various public service announcements, and encourage certain behaviors
like “paying it forward” or “random acts of kindness.”
School Physical Environment/School Climate: Every
morning/afternoon our students are greeted with announcements, which
are broadcast via our school television channel in each of our classrooms
and throughout the school. These announcements typically include a
motivational quote of the day, an SAT word of the day, a brief public
service announcement with a positive message, as well as important
announcements from club advisors, coaches, teachers, and about upcoming
events. Announcement always conclude with the message, “I’m
___(name)___ and I’m ___(name)___ reminding you that The Decatur
Way is the Way to Grow. Pride, Achievement, Respect, and Responsibility.
Have a terrific day everyone.” Additional, in every classroom,
every hallway, every office, every multi-purpose room, our school
motto is visible. These posters include the words pride, achievement,
respect, and responsibility. We use the use the acronym “PARR”
to address these values. Furthermore, we have tailored our motto to
fit every subject area and every physical area in the school and have
posted these posters in their respective areas. Additionally, bulletin
boards and showcases adorn our hallways with positive messages that
often include our school motto.
Honorary Recognition Programs: We have several
programs in place that recognize exceptional achievement and behavior
for our students as well as our community members and alumni. Three
of these programs include our PBIS Student of the Month, our VIP of
the Game, and STAR (Students Thriving on Achievement and Recognition).
Additionally, teachers recognize students with Positive Referrals
throughout the year. Our PBIS Student of the Month program recognizes
one student for perfect attendance and one student for exemplifying
the principles of the Decatur Way and he/she is drawn randomly from
the monthly Positive Referrals. These recipients receive a gift card.
The VIP of the Game program recognizes exceptional community members
and students who have excelled inside and outside of the classroom
between quarters of home football, basketball, and lacrosse games.
These honorees receive season athletic passes. Our STAR program recognizes
those students who have seen significant gains in their academic coursework.
STAR honorees are recognized during a special end-of-the-year breakfast
Giving back to the community: Last but not least,
our school seeks to encourage our students to give back to the community
and it celebrates that behavior. Our students are often engaged in
service oriented projects including executing food drives, charitable
fundraising, collections for armed service members, cards for elderly,
and the list goes on. This past year, Stephen Decatur High School
students gave over $5,000 to community organizations.
TITLE of BEST PRACTICE: Principel 2: The school defines
“character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling,
Principle 2: The school defines “character”
comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing.
The Stephen Decatur High School SIT (School Improvement
Team) actively engages all stakeholders in the establishment of a comprehensive
character education program. Beginning with an Action Plan, the school
defines character and establishes recognition programs and proactive measures
in its effort to reduce overall negative behavior and the number of consequent
This action plan includes Tier II interventions such as our Check-In,
Check-Out (CICO) program, which allows students to accumulate “Decatur
Credit” when they demonstrate the principles of the Decatur Way.
While participating in the CICO program, students have the opportunity
to reflect upon their behavior and initiate positive change. Students
typically rotate in and out of this program in approximately 6-8 weeks
and the CICO coach will track progress for each student for a short time
following completion. Our CICO program is very successful.
An integral component of the school action plan are the
school-wide character education lessons which are accompanied by public
service announcements, activities, bulletin boards, and daily messages.
(See Character Ed Lessons) Our character education lessons are designed
to bring the school together and unite students and faculty members with
a shared vision of empathy, kindness, compassion, and respect through
discussion and reflection.
The expectations for our students are consistent throughout the school.
To provide students with specific details about what good behavior looks
like, we post PARR (Pride, Achievement, Respect, Responsibility) posters
throughout the school. Some of these posters include clearly defined behaviors
that are specific to the area where the students may be located. Furthermore,
all classrooms have “THINK” posters, which is an acronym for
thoughtful, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.
As a culminating character and school spirit activity
this year, we launched our inaugural LIP DUB event. This was a school-wide
activity that was organized mainly by students with the express purpose
of generating school spirit and unity. It began with the desire to generate
support for members of our student body who were fighting cancer and it
blossomed into a joint venture with the community. We are very proud of
the final product.
TITLE of BEST PRACTICE: Principle 3: The school uses
a comprehensive, intentional, and proactive approach to character development.
Principle 3: The school uses a comprehensive, intentional,
and proactive approach to character development.
Even before the school-year begins, Stephen Decatur High
School invites incoming freshmen into the building to acclimate them to
the building and our expectations. To facilitate that, we bring in student
leaders, members of the National Honor Society, to provide tours, discuss
clubs and sports, and host question and answer sessions. We strongly encourage
involvement and school spirit, but we don’t just talk about these
ideals. Our student leaders are enthusiastic facilitators. This year marks
the 15th annual Freshman Seahawk Day.
Our proactive measures continue throughout the first weeks of school as
we gear up for our annual Character Kickoff event, which is held at the
end of the second week of school. Our Character Kickoff brings community
members, students from all backgrounds, and teachers together in an entertaining
and inspirational assembly. The event typically includes a PowerPoint
backdrop, singing, games, skits, testimonials, video messages, and reflections
upon our previous year’s school climate survey. One of our endearing
moments this past year was when a teacher and Stephen Decatur High School
alum read to his son about the school.
To continue school spirit and school unity throughout
the year, we also sponsor spirit days, school-wide pictures, and Dress
Days, such as Dress for Success Day.
These activities are all part of the school Action Plan developed by members
of the School Improvement Team. (See Action Plan) The Action Plan is developed
and monitored by teachers, administrators, and community members. It is
also presented to the entire faculty at the beginning of the school year.
Last, but not least, we would be remiss if we did not address how our
school handles discipline. First, we use a 3 tiered disciplinary referral
approach, which allows students the opportunities to correct certain behaviors
without immediate Draconian consequences. Next, all teachers follow a
Behavior Matrix, which clearly defines levels of behaviors and how to
handle them. This helps maintain consistency throughout our school and
provides the opportunity for teachers to be proactive instead of reactive
when it comes to teaching desired student behavior.
TITLE of BEST PRACTICE: Principle 11:
The school regularly assesses its culture and climate, the functioning
of its staff as character educators, and the extent to which its students
manifest good character.
Principle 11: The school regularly assesses
its culture and climate, the functioning of its staff as character educators,
and the extent to which its students manifest good character.
One of the most essential ingredients of positive school
culture is unity. Unity comes from empowering all stakeholders in the
process of school improvement. At Stephen Decatur High School, the School
Improvement Team is not only open to all faculty members, but it also
invites and solicits opinions from parents and students. One of the ways
that the school has been able to collect feedback is through a climate
survey. During the summer, members of the School Improvement Team meet
to reflect upon feedback, the successes and failures of various initiatives,
and study trends and statistics. An Action Plan is developed based upon
all of that information. At the beginning of the school year, the team
will present essential information to the staff to ensure that everyone
is invested in plans for the school. Each month, the School Improvement
Team solicits input from the staff, meets to analyze root causes of behaviors,
devises proactive initiatives to reduce negative behaviors, and then shares
monthly minutes through e-mails and during faculty meetings.
To maintain a positive school climate, all staff members
are encouraged to recognize students and colleagues for exceptional behavior.
We accomplish this with Positive Referrals for students and Faculty of
the Month nominations for staff members.
Last, but certainly not least, we would be remiss if
we did not take the opportunity to share one of proudest moments this
year. Unfortunately, a few members of our student body were stricken with
cancer this year. We sponsored casual days and dress days to raise money
for the families, but we still did not think it was enough. So, when a
few of our students approached us to lead a school-wide LIP DUB to create
awareness, we were all in. Similar to a pep rally, this event was all
about school spirit. While all of our clubs and sports teams promoted
participation, the entire school demonstrated their “SEAHAWK SPIRIT!”
We created an itinerary for a camera to follow down the hallway while
students showed their school spirit, threw confetti, and danced along
to the music. At the culmination, the entire student body emptied into
our stadium to form a human “SDHS” and to do a “crowd
wave.” As far as its effectiveness, well, you will have to watch
it to understand. In closing, this event truly captures the character
of our school. We strive to teach empathy and compassion each and every
day and this activity really demonstrated our success in our character
The Maryland Center for Character
Educationat Stevenson University
School of Education, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153