Weekly Feature



2018-06-14 / Front Page

Como Park Elementary named national school of character for 2018

by ALAN RIZZO Reporter


State Sen. Patrick Gallivan visits Como Park Elementary for a tour led by students after the school was named a State School of Character by Character.org in January. The national nonprofit also recently named Como Park a National School of Character for 2018. From left are Como Park Principal Molly Marcinelli; Gallivan; third-grade students and "Leaders of Tomorrow" program participants Liam Gladstone and Isabella Brown; Colleen Tonsoline, a physical education teacher who helps run the "Leaders of Tomorrow" program; and Lancaster Central Superintendent Michael Vallely. 
Photo courtesy of Superintendent Michael Vallely State Sen. Patrick Gallivan visits Como Park Elementary for a tour led by students after the school was named a State School of Character by Character.org in January. The national nonprofit also recently named Como Park a National School of Character for 2018. From left are Como Park Principal Molly Marcinelli; Gallivan; third-grade students and "Leaders of Tomorrow" program participants Liam Gladstone and Isabella Brown; Colleen Tonsoline, a physical education teacher who helps run the "Leaders of Tomorrow" program; and Lancaster Central Superintendent Michael Vallely. Photo courtesy of Superintendent Michael Vallely After years of cultivating character through homegrown initiatives and two years of applications, Lancaster Central’s Como Park Elementary has been selected as a national school of character by Character.org, a national nonprofit.

The designation, which validates character initiatives in schools and communities worldwide, was one of 73 given to schools across the U.S. this year, according to a recent Character.org release.

Como Park was one of four schools in New York that received the award and the only school in Western New York to be honored. The elementary school was also named a State School of Character in January.

Superintendent Michael Vallely noted the achievement and lauded the school’s staff and students during a Board of Education meeting last week.

“I don’t know if people truly understand how big that is, but certainly that’s a wonderful achievement for [Principal Molly Marcinelli], all her teachers and her staff, and her students, so congratulations again and again and again,” he said.

According to the Character.org release, schools honored as national schools of character have first been selected as state schools of character for demonstrating a “dedicated focus on character development with a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, school climate and their communities.”

They then go through a rigorous evaluation process based on the organization’s “11 Principles of Effective Character Education,” which help schools to foster shared leadership, provide opportunities for students to take moral action, and partner with families and communities in building character.

Marcinelli said last week that the award means “an awful lot” to Como Park and stressed that it belongs to the entire community, who earned it together.

“Parents, students, staff, everyone was a part of achieving this award because it does truly take a village,” she said. “I can’t say enough about the character of my parent community, and my staff is just hands down the best there is.”

She said teachers and staff have worked hard to meet students’ academic, social and emotional needs and to develop a school culture that fosters good character.

“We have also not bought into one-shot assemblies and things like that and canned programs that try to teach character,” she said. “We have worked on just teaching kids basic things such as shaking hands, eye contact, ‘Good mornings’ and ‘Have a nice day.’”

She explained that those basic skills are applied across the school so that “everybody in the building is treated with the same level of respect,” from teachers to custodial staff.

Marcinelli said the school also teaches character through a host of initiatives that include a districtwide peace bus program in which students respectfully address drivers when boarding and exiting buses; service learning projects that have included collecting canned goods for the Buffalo City Mission and dimes for the Dominican Republic; and leadership opportunities for third-graders that include recycling and leading new families on tours through the school.

She said two third-graders served as tour guides when state Sen. Patrick Gallivan visited Como Park a few weeks ago after the school had been chosen as a State School of Character.

Como Park will be honored along with other national schools during Character.org’s 25th National Forum on Character, which will be held Oct. 4 through 7 in Washington, D.C.

To learn more, visit https://character.org/.

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