Eisenhower High School became the 11th school in Oklahoma to be designated as a State School of Character on Jan. 23.
The achievement comes only two years after implementing Character Education into the school’s curriculum via programs such as Lead2Feed, Ignition, Partner’s Club and Eagle Escorts. An Emerging School of Character designation came last year, motivating approximately 1,300 students to surpass the next traditional tier of Honorable School of Character.
“They said it couldn’t be done,” Head Principal Charlotte Oates said. “No (school) goes from ‘Emerging’ straight to State School of Character without being recognized as ‘Honorable’ first, and no one does it in only two years! Can you tell we’re excited?”
To date, Character.org – the nonprofit which awards all designations – has recognized 68 schools from 16 states for this honor. The schools that are recognized have “demonstrated a dedicated focus on character development that has a true positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior and school climate,” according to Oates.
Both Oates and Assistant Principal Laura Puccino led Eisenhower’s students and staff in Character Education initiatives since 2015. They conducted a school climate survey early on – involving students, parents and faculty – to determine areas most in need of attention, they said. School safety, staff/student relationships and community involvement were all rated and discussed. They implemented a new touchstone afterward, voted upon by staff and students – Eagles SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Attitude, Responsibility) – which best represents their core values and mission.
“This is an honor for Ike students, faculty and community,” Puccino said upon the discovery of their latest designation. “This school has a tradition of academic excellence and now, our students and teachers are being recognized for their character.”
Ike is the only school to officially implement character education or apply for status designations within the LPS district, but site leadership encourage other schools to get involved. The Eagles will be visited in March from additional judges in hopes of becoming recognized as a National School of Character, as well.
“Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,’” Puccino said. “This is the future for EHS.”