WESTAMPTION, NJ -- The Westampton Campus of the Burlington County Special Services School District (BCSSSD) was recently honored for its efforts to provide a positive and supportive school environment. In their annual awards, Character.org certified BCSSSD a 2021 Honorable Mention School of Character in its review of schools and districts at the state level that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development which has a positive effect on academic achievement, student behavior, and school climate.

Last year, the Lumberton Campus earned an Honorable Mention. 

“This is a very proud moment culminating in work begun four years ago commencing with our Alternative Campus at Mt. Laurel, under the direction of Principal Joan Barbagiovanni, who ultimately led her campus to State and National School of Character recognition," BCSSSD Superintendent Dr. Christopher Nagy said. "She in turn, worked with campus principals to learn the process and to incorporate lessons learned and applications for the Principles Framework into the very fabric of campus life."

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"The ultimate goal was to involve all of the campuses in our district to adapt the School of Character principles, and in turn, change the culture and practices in the buildings," added Nagy. "This is a huge milestone and positions us to be recognized as a District of Character in the pursuing years."

Character.org identified on the BCSSSD-West Campus the exemplary work being done in meeting the social, emotional, and character development of the students. The national organization praised the school’s utilization of research-based strategies of positive behavior supports, responsive classrooms, self-regulation periods, mindfulness sessions and the adoption of the Zones of Regulation curriculum.

Furthermore, BCSSSD-West was recognized for getting students involved in community outreach as well as strong communication via social media channels.  These practices are used to showcase how the district serves the students. BCSSSD-West rated well on the Principles Framework that is used as a guidepost for cultivating a culture of character in schools. 

The launch of the Summer Bridge program also was listed as a strength. This program took place during summer 2020 and was created as a way to maintain a strong connection with families and students after not seeing them since the March emergency closure of school.

“This distinction is an accomplishment that I credit to all of our staff and students, who have adopted the social/emotional learning curriculum and weaved character education into every aspect of the day. I am extremely proud of their hard work and dedication and look forward to continuing and strengthening our character education throughout the campus this school year and next,” said Mr. Ryan Varga, Principal of the Westampton Campus.

"This is a dream come true in a time when staff and students can be proud of their efforts despite all of the focus on the pandemic. In the end, it is one’s character that matters," added Nagy.

“The State Schools of Character review team received and evaluated 158 applications from schools and districts with quality character education programs. The review team is pleased to name Burlington County Special Services a 2021 Honorable Mention School of Character. The work you did in preparing your application is a significant step in understanding your school’s character journey,” said Lori Soifer, Director of Schools of Character at Character.org.

BCSSSD educates students and young adults with special needs from across Burlington County. The three campuses provide comprehensive educational and therapeutic programs for preschool and school-age students and young adults, ranging in age from three to 21. In addition, the school provides widely recognized programs for students with multiple disabilities and programs for children with autism through a continuum of options for students with behavioral issues featuring both traditional, classroom-based schools and alternative approaches.

When the current school year began in the fall with students working remotely, they were engaged in weekly themed dress-up and recognition weeks including the Week of Respect, School Violence Awareness Week, Unity Day, Red Ribbon Week and more!  Students and staff continuously recognize social-awareness days and weeks throughout the school year. 

In additional, student clubs are up and running virtually.

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