The Oak Grove School District will begin implementing CharacterPlus at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year.

With the successful implementation of the CharacterPlus program in the Independence School District, another area district is making plans to follow in its footsteps.

The Oak Grove Board of Education approved the implementation of the CharacterPlus program at its March board of education meeting Wednesday.

CharacterPlus was started more than 20 years ago in St. Louis as a way to stop the deteriorating values in schools. The program’s mission is to develop positive character traits by providing a “high quality” character education process as well as resources to schools, homes and communities.

Traits are selected by staff members and are individual to each school. Some of these traits include respect, responsibility, honesty, sharing, equality, belonging, citizenship, self control, commitment, caring, patience and courage. More than 600 schools in Missouri are now served by the CharacterPlus program.

“I am so excited about this program. It is something that I wanted to see happen,” said board member Ruth Pirch. “I think it will give us some focus and be continuous from one grade level to another. I also think it shows that we care enough about our students to make sure we take time to discuss issues of character.”

Linda Williams, assistant superintendent for the Oak Grove School District, said character education programs are not new to Oak Grove. However, much like Independence, these programs were designed by the individual schools with no cohesiveness between buildings. She said last fall she was asked to look at different programs to find something that could be implemented consistently district-wide.

CharacterPlus, Williams said, seemed like a “natural fit” for the school district.

“CharacterPlus can be woven into everything we do at school,” she said. “It provides a focus on character traits necessary for students to become successful in school as well as productive adult citizens in our society.”

A unique aspect of the CharacterPlus program is the community participation piece, involvement which Williams said is important. The purpose of involving the community is to have everyone, even outside of the school district, invest in the schools long-term success.

“I think this is a good program, especially for the younger kids,” said board member Mick Ross. “I think there will be a rise in their self esteem and it (CharacterPlus) has been proven to improve behavior and academic progress. All around, I think it is a good program.”

In addition, Williams said the district likes the ability to customize the program to fit the needs of students in the district. The District CharacterPlus Steering Committee is currently being formed, with implementation set for the 2009-10 school year.

“Many of the components in the process are already in place throughout the district,” she said. “But CharacterPlus could become the vehicle through which we expand and provide consistency in our character education efforts and coordination of the efforts from early childhood through high school.”