Committee to focus on character education

By Julie Barzilay

A contest to craft an ethical “touchstone” is part of the newly-formed Character Education Committee’s first initiative of the year. Students, faculty and staff are eligible to submit a short, identifiable phrase that states who we are and who we strive to be as a community.

The contest will begin after spring break.

The school will attempt to take a more proactive approach to imprinting good habits of character in members of the community in the future, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts announced via e-mail Feb. 18.

The Character Education Committee, with members spanning both campuses, consists of Head of Athletics Audrius Barzdukas, Director of Studies Deborah Dowling, Rabbi Emily Feigenson, middle school dean Betsy Ilg, middle school foreign language teacher Edgar Jurado, math teachers Kent Nealis, Kevin Weis and Ashley Satterthwaite and Father J. Young.

These nine individuals have volunteered to help “integrate character education into our everyday teaching,” Huybrechts said in the email.

Huybrechts would like an emphasis to be placed on character that equals the emphases placed on athletics and academics.

“Shaping the values of our students is also important work, and while doing that often comes naturally in the course of teaching and coaching, I believe we could be more intentional about creating and sustaining our school’s character education program,” Huybrechts said.

This has been a focus of many of her endeavors this year, including the selection of ethics speaker Michael Josephson last fall.

The group has gathered about once a month since December, and has discussed the existing character program and ways to strengthen it.

“We are considering the whole student in our discussions, not just their academic, athletic or talent development,” Sattherthwaite said. “We’re concerned with the human and ethical development of our students.”

Feigenson has been working on the committee’s role since around September with Young and a few others, gathering support and listing goals.

She thinks the school does a great job of fulfilling part one of its mission statement, which reads:

“The school strives to provide an education that enables and empowers its diverse students to develop their intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical gifts.”

However, Feigenson would like to see an improvement in the fulfillment of the second part, which continues “to understand and respect the similarities and differences among themselves and others in their local and world communities; and to learn the habits of mind and self-discipline necessary to live with integrity and purpose as contributing members of society.”

“The contest is a great way for students to get involved and help shape the future path of this school,” Head Prefect Brandon Levin ’09 said.