LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ - Three years ago the staff and administration at the Spotswood School District's Memorial Middle School began an endeavor to enhance the school's climate to become a New Jersey School of Character. The journey began with committees researching schools that had achieved recognition for being Schools of Character, looking at programs already in place within the school and discussing ways to make existing programs better.

On May 31, the Memorial Middle School received an honorable mention along with 13 other schools from the State Department of Education at Rider University for their endeavors. Memorial Middle School Principal Brian Kitchin, Memorial school nurse Katherine Shkolar and Memorial Science teacher Erin Glassen were present at the conference to receive a special plaque noting Memorial's achievement.

The New Jersey Schools of Character Program was created in 2006 and has been recognizing schools and districts for their efforts to employ the Character Education Partnership's Eleven Principals of Effective Character Education through a character education program that results in positive changes in student behavior, academic achievement and school climate. Schools can also strive to become National Schools of Character. In 2019, 88 schools and three districts were named National Schools of Character including 27 New Jersey schools. One Chinese primary school was also named for the first time this year.

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At Rider University, 14 schools received an honorable mention while 20 were lauded as New Jersey Schools of Character. Twenty-two Garden State schools were tapped as emerging, meaning these school are just embarking on their path toward becoming a NJ School of Character. It typically takes schools many years to earn the distinction of being a School of Character with some receiving honorable mentions for several years prior. In order to be considered, schools must complete a detailed application.

Memorial began their journey with a core team of staff members that included Kitchen, Shkolar and Glassen along with Joanne Duffy, Jessica Silva, Gabby Borrelli, Cara Nascimento and Stephanie Fallon.

"I am proud to announce that our wonderful students and staff were recognized for our efforts to become a New Jersey School of Character," Kitchin said in a congratulatory message to staff and students last week. "Mrs. Shkolar, Mrs. Glassen and I had the opportunity to attend a ceremony at Rider University where we were presented with a plaque for Honorable Mention NJ School of Character. We were one of only 14 schools in the state to earn such an honor."
"While our ultimate goal is to become one of the 20 schools with the full SOC distinction and eventually a National School of Character, receiving this award in just our first time applying is truly remarkable," Kitchin continued. "This is a testament to the hard work each of you put into ensuring our school is full of not only good students and staff, but also great people. This plaque demonstrates what we each already knew, which is to say that we are a true leader in the state of New Jersey with the quality of education we provide. Keep up the good work and we are bound to continue our growth and eventually show the nation what a great school Memorial is. I am proud to be part of this great school!"