Creating a Lasting Legacy

By Nora Carr

Starting a school, business, and community partnership is easy; sustaining one is hard. Keeping a partnership going for 25 years despite shifts in leadership, funding priorities, accountability mechanisms, partisan politics, and the recent recession, is extraordinary.

Yet that is what St. Louis’ CHARACTERplus has done. A project of Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis -- a partnership success story in its own right -- CHARACTERplus was founded in 1988 by the late Sanford N. McDonnell, chairman emeritus of McDonnell Douglas Corp. (now Boeing), and school officials in seven school districts.

Created at a time when talking about values in public schools often sparked controversy and even derision, this program brought together school leaders, parents, teachers, principals, school volunteers, business representatives, and nonprofit leaders. They came together to tackle student behavior issues and to renew a public school focus on character, civics, citizenship, and service.

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