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St. Louis schools honored for putting character first

Tim Lloyd
St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time, two St. Louis city schools -- Nottingham Community Access Job Training High School and Busch Middle School of Character – have earned the label “Missouri School of Character.”  A total of 11 St. Louis area schools received the designation this year.      

In the St. Louis Public Schools, the designation comes after staff at the two schools spent years proving that their focus on students' character improved academic achievement, student behavior and created a school environment that championed learning.

Rob Lescher, principal of Busch Middle School, said focusing on character has ramped up classroom performance at the school.  

“It doesn’t matter how hard your teachers work, how hard you work, if (students) don’t care about the test, they’re not going to perform,” Lescher said. 

Busch, a magnet school in St. Louis Hills, scored 88 percent of the possible points on its report card from the state last school year.  That easily clears the bar set for full accreditation set by the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP5).  

“I always tell people character education is students, staff and parents working together to make improvements on themselves and to make it the best possible learning environment," said Lescher

While earning the designation, Lescher said he began making changes in the way he managed the school.

“I used to yell at students a lot,” he said.  “I thought it was good because I was maintaining order and trying to keep the environment safe. But I never really considered that it was disrespectful for the students.”

Lescher said he began keeping a tally of the times he raised his voice during the week and shared the results with kids and staff.  

“Now I’m happy to say that I almost never yell,” Lescher said.  “That’s an example of character education, when adults can model the characteristics they want students to exhibit.”

Superintendent Kelvin Adams praised leaders at both schools for their accomplishment.

“They’ve set the bar really high for expectations for their students, staff and their parents who committed themselves to want to be at those schools,” Adams said.  “So I think it’s just a great honor for the schools.” 

Other St. Louis-area schools that have previously state level recognition as being schools of character include:

  • Bayless High School
  • Bayless Junior High School
  • Fox Middle School
  • Coldwater Elementary School.  
  • Forder Elementary School
  • Oakville High School
  • Rockwood Early Childhood Center 
  • Selvidge Middle School
  • Windsor High School

The local school character program is run by CharacterPlus and EducationPlus, which represents St. Louis-area school districts.  After receiving a state designation, schools can then be recognized as a National School of Character.  Those winners will be announced in the spring.   

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.