DOWNEY - The Downey Unified School District, in collaboration with the city of Downey, received the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, an award presented every year to recognize "sustainable, innovative or exemplary programs which have been developed and successfully implemented by California teachers and administrators."Downey won the honor for its work in Character Counts, a program instituted locally in 2006 by DUSD superintendent Dr. Wendy Doty. Character Counts sets out to improve students' character by focusing on the "Six Pillars of Character," trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. A Character Counts coalition encouraged all citizens - corporate and individual - to model these traits in an ongoing commitment to promote character development and ethical behavior in the children of Downey. The results include a 5.1% improvement in the school district's API scores, dramatic decreases in suspensions and expulsions, and crime has decreased each year since Character Counts was initiated, city officials said. "Although we know many factors impact the crime statistics of Downey, I believe the implementation of the Character Counts throughout our city has had a direct impact on the quality of life in Downey," Councilman Mario Guerra said in a statement. The six pillars of character are displayed inside city council chambers, and a proposal is expected soon to name city roadways after the six pillars, city officials said. At a press conference Wednesday to announce the award, Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics praised Downey as an example for other cities in the southeast area. "What makes Downey unusual is the cooperation between the city, school board and superintendent," Josephson said. Doty implemented Character Counts shortly after she was hired as superintendent of Downey schools about five years ago. In recent years the City Council has taken a role in promoting the ethics to the community as well. According to statistics provided by the city, the total number of suspension days decreased from 6,417 to 3,757 since Character Counts was implemented. Expulsions are down 64 %. The DUSD also reported 146% increase in the number of permits granted to students who reside outside the district. The school system had experienced a 5% decline in outside permits three years before Character Counts was started here. "Character Counts cannot take credit for all of this; Wendy Doty is a fantastic superintendent and maybe she works miracles," Josephson said. "But I would like to think the added emphasis on character played a part." City officials also used the occasion to unveil its Responsiblity Row street sign, which will be placed in the executive parking lot behind City Hall. Similar street signs are expected to be erected in the coming months in other areas of Downey.
********** Published: October 21, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 27