Guilford County Schools (GCS) is comprised of 126 K-12 schools that serve over 73,300 students. GCS students represent 144 countries, 10,134 have special education, 13,111 are advanced learners and approximately 57% of students are on free/reduced lunch. When NC State Legislature passed the Student Citizen Act, GCS established programs to help students build character. GCS used effective practices like, student recognitions or volunteerism in the community; however they did not produce sustainable changes in school climate or other measureable student outcomes. In 2008, the school district launched a Strategic Plan under the leadership of Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green. GCS heard from its parents, students and staff that the best education should include developing academic skills as well as character. GCS developed and implemented a character development model district-wide with goals of reducing out-of-school suspensions due to minor student misbehaviors, like discourteous and non-compliance, and to improve our stakeholders’ perception of safety in our schools. The GCS Character Development Initiative (CDI) began and a CDI project team comprised of 4 advisory members and 33 project deployment members. The team established partnerships with 5 organizations; National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), National Center for Community and Justice (NCCJ), The Volunteer Center of Greensboro, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro and Community in Schools, High Point.
Guilford County Schools
More youth have a common interest of being better people in the community and making positive changes to help others. More students are inquiring about character traits and wanting to know how it looks on a day-to-day basis. Character education has helped youth to think about current issues and how to be better people in school. Student attitudes and perceptions are changing for the better based on the introduction of the Character Development Initiative.
- Linda Magley, 9th grade Reading Teacher
Teachers are embedding character education in curriculum and through service-learning projects teachers are finding this to be a direct way to exemplify specific traits such as integrity and responsibility. Another way staff members are involved is through HOUSE, similar to homeroom, where students meet to participate in an in-school club that focuses on other topics, for example financial literacy. This gives an opportunity for young people to see directly how self-discipline relates to real life when dealing with money.
- Arlette McTillmon, Curriculum Facilitator
The opportunities for meeting new people and being able to work with nonprofit organizations in the community. I love my teachers and everyone at school has a genuinely great attitude.
- Caitlyn, 11th grade
The school staff is very lively and energetic and willing to accommodate any concerns for parent/teacher conferences and school has a true open door policy. Even other teachers and staff in the school will respond to questions and concerns and will follow-up in a timely manner. School staff are very courteous in their responses and always welcoming and friendly. I definitely feel respected as a parent and my child feels respected as well.
- Priya Phillips
School is a place where all children are able to bring lessons they learn from school to their community. Parents and students are able to make connections with the schools to help improve the society in which they live. We are very proud of how GCS has aligned the school work with community issues in order for students to engage in service within non-profit organizations.
- Cynthia Nielsen, School Garden Network Coordinator