Respect, responsibility, empathy, integrity, grit, confidence, mindfulness and being reflective – these are eight character traits that teachers and administrators at Livonia Public Schools strive to instill in each student as part of building a Community with Character.
“We see this in action in several ways,” says Stacy Jenkins, administrator of district communications for Livonia Public Schools. “It’s high school students coming to school on their day off to paint kindness murals on the walls of hallways and restrooms. It’s the ‘Choose Kind’ T-shirts that dot the landscape on elementary school playgrounds. It’s posters and bulletin boards that display messages of respect, empathy, grit and integrity.”
Building character is important to staff and administrators because research shows when students feel respected, cared for and confident, they learn best.
“Livonia Public Schools is the state’s 10th largest district. We serve more than 14,200 students and employ nearly 2,000 staff members. Everyone is committed to Community with Character, which we started several years ago. We have watched the initiative blossom throughout our 23-school community,” Jenkins says.
The goal, Jenkins says, is to infuse the values and universal principles into the school culture so that students may develop the life skills and habits of mind that they need to thrive academically, socially and personally – now and in the future.
The initiative also emphasizes that all interactions, whether they are student-to-student, student-to-staff, staff-to-student or staff-to-staff, should center on respectful interactions.
“In any school district, particularly a large district like Livonia Public Schools, relationship and character building is key to the overall school climate,” says Jennifer Taiariol, Ph.D., Director of Student Services for the district. “We know that when we emphasize these traits, our students will not only be better as people, but will have an advantage once they leave the school district as young adults.”
Local business leaders back the Community with Character initiative and describe the traits as soft skills that employers seek in job candidates.
“We are hearing more about how interpersonal interactions and emotional intelligence are desired skills for employers for any position,” says Livonia Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Dan West. “Improved personal communication skills are vital to help all of us understand other people, so we can better respond. This also helps our ability to work effectively in a team.”
Several business leaders participate in the Livonia Public Schools District School Improvement Team, which led the effort to implement the Community with Character initiative.
In rolling out the program, the district conducted student and staff focus groups and surveys, established professional development for staff and created an online toolkit that is filled with classroom resources and school-based activities that are built on the character traits.
“We are so proud of this effort in Livonia Public Schools,” says Superintendent Andrea Oquist. “Careful thought and extensive planning went into establishing the framework for the LPS Community with Character, but our staff and students have really put it into action, one trait at a time.”
The Community with Character initiative is just one of the positive programs running in the district, Jenkins says. Livonia Public Schools also offers Niji-Iro Japanese Immersion Elementary School, for kindergarten through grade 6, a high school International Baccalaureate diploma program, career technical programs, Math, Science and Computers (MSC) program and special education programs through age 26.
The district also offers programs in creative and performing arts, global education, Young 5s, preschool, and before- and after-school childcare.
Discover more at the Livonia Public Schools’ website, or call 734-744-2522.