Mary B. Neal Elementary named National School of Character

Mary B. Neal Elementary named National School of Character

Mary B. Neal Elementary School last week was named a 2013 National School of Character by the Character Education Partnership (CEP). Neal is one of 18 nationwide public elementary schools selected for the award, and is the only Maryland school selected for the designation. National Schools of Character demonstrate growth in academics, behavior and climate. Additionally, these schools have created caring and supportive school communities that meet the needs of students.

Neal Principal Carol Leveillee said character education at Neal is not just a program, but a way of life. “Since the spring before Neal opened in 2008, character education has been the foundation of our building. Character education is not a program at Mary B. Neal; it's a way of life. I can't begin to tell you how very proud I am of the students, staff, parents and the community that supports us,” she said.

Neal underwent an intensive screening process as a finalist that included school visits, and an analysis of the impact of their character education program on academics, behavior and school culture. Earlier this school year, Neal was chosen as a 2013 Maryland School of Character award recipient by the Maryland Center for Character Education (MCCE) at Stevenson University. As a state award winner, Neal was eligible for consideration in the National Schools of Character program.

Schools are selected for the state award based on their demonstration of the Character Education Partnership's 11 principles of Effective Character Education. The principles focus on the promotion of ethical values and a caring school community, fostering students' self-motivation, and engaging school staff to help with character-building efforts. Schools are required to apply for character education awards annually.

There are several character education initiatives in place at Neal. The school fosters a partnership with Andrews Air Force Base in which military members visit the school once a week to mentor students. The school coordinates community service-oriented projects such as annual food drives and a 5K race to support the Southern Maryland Food Bank. The Maryland State Department of Education has recognized Neal for the past four years for their food drive efforts.

Additionally, Neal launched an initiative called “30 rock” three years ago in which students in grades second through fifth can participate in a variety of clubs. The school has formed more than 30 clubs and each Friday for 30 minutes, students can participate in the club of their choice. Club examples range from cheerleading, creative writing and art, to drawing, world drumming and sign language.

Neal was also honored in 2010 as a Promising Practices in Character Education National award winner. As part of the National Schools of Character awards program, the Character Education Partnership gives Promising Practices awards to schools for implementing unique and specific strategies in character education.

Neal, along with other National Schools of Character, will be featured at the National Forum on Character Education Oct. 24-27 in Washington D.C. For more information on the National Schools of Character Education program, visit

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 caring community schools that offer a technological advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

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