Jonas E. Salk Middle School was re-designated as a National School of Character by Character.org. This year, 84 schools and 7 districts from 15 states earned the distinction. Jonas E. Salk Middle School is only one of three New York schools to be selected. This is the second time that the school earned the national title, the first being in 2016.?
To receive the high honor, schools and school districts must meet Character.org's 11 Principles. The principles were developed by school leaders and character development researchers to serve as a guide for schools throughout the country to plan, implement, assess and sustain their character development initiative. Building administrators and staff members from Jonas E. Salk Middle School applied for re-designation and the school received a site visit by a Character.org representative who pushed into classrooms, spoke with students, staff and parents.
Character education has played a significant role for years, starting with Jonas E. Salk Middle School's R.I.S.E. program (respect and responsibility, integrity, safety and staying healthy and empathy). The program is committed to fostering each students' social-emotional development and create opportunities for academic excellence, civic education and the development of moral character. This year, the school created R.I.S.E. Day which is held once every quarter and focuses on one of the R.I.S.E. themes for the entire school day. Students participate in teambuilding, problem-solving and social-emotional activities.
The middle school also started a R.I.S.E. newsletter based on each quarter's theme. Students who demonstrate the theme receive a R.I.S.E. Award and are highlighted in the newsletter. Outstanding students also receive a postcard in the mail from their teacher acknowledging them for their excellent character.
In addition, students participate in Middle School 101, a push-in program to give them the tools they need to succeed, and some engage in a book club. The club allows students to reflect on social-emotional learning through literature. The school also continues to host its Challenger Athletic League in partnership with General Douglas MacArthur High School. The league invites secondary students with special needs to participate in competitive athletics.
Moving forward, the staff at Jonas E. Salk Middle School hopes to expand their character education practices to other schools in the district.
"We are very proud of being awarded our re-certification as a National School of Character," said school psychologist Barbara Monteiro-Grady. "Our R.I.S.E. program continues to flourish as seen by the continuous growth of our SEL programs and student/community involvement. We look forward to continuing to expand our R.I.S.E. program through other schools in the district."