Rowland Unified School District

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San Gabriel Valley Tribune (8/1/2007) ROWLAND UNIFIED HONORED NATIONALLY

Rowland Unified honored nationally

By Caroline An Staff Writer

San Gabriel Valley Tribune August 1, 2007


ROWLAND HEIGHTS - Rowland Unified's efforts to promote character education to students was rewarded by a national organization.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Community of Caring honored Rowland for implementing a K-12 character education program. The district was honored at the organization's national conference in Las Vegas on July 26.

While all students are targeted under the Community of Caring program, students with disabilities are given special attention.

Maria Ott, district superintendent, said helping children develop good character is important and is a role that teachers and district officials take seriously. These values and skills will prepare them for college and for the work force, she said.

"When teachers are encouraged to use the classroom to help students succeed personally, it helps them to do well academically," Ott said.

The national organization does not give funding to schools, but provides professional development to teachers and technical support.

Penny Keith, professional development/grants coordinator for the National Center for Community of Caring, said that Rowland Unified has shown a long-term commitment to the Community of Caring program by sponsoring workshops and conferences in the past.

Rowland Unified has implemented the program since 1996. Each school is responsible for illustrating and promoting the program's five core values: caring, respect, responsibility, trust and family.

The Community of Caring program has been adopted in nearly 1,000 schools in 38 states.

With the San Gabriel Valley being so culturally diverse, helping students appreciate differences in important, she said.

Past events include teen forums at the high schools where students discuss topics like gang violence and drug use, sponsoring a Random Acts of Kindness week and writing essays on the five values at the elementary school level.

Each school site is given $200 to use toward promoting and developing Community of Caring activities. Additionally, a graduation requirement includes fulfilling community service hours.

Keith said that the program is particularly strong at the high school level; students with disabilities are fully integrated into classes, student forums and service activities.

A Best Buddies club, which promotes friendships between disabled students and their non-disabled peers - is one of the largest groups on campus, said Susie Burch, the club's adviser, who was honored by the national organization in 2001 for her efforts to help special education students acclimate to the high school community.

The club helps sponsor the separate prom that is catered to students with disabilities and is open to the student body, Burch said.

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