Local Pride and Global Impact!Editor’s Note: Old Bridge Township Public Schools is a 42-square mile suburban school district located at the southern end of Middlesex County, in central New Jersey. The district has a total daytime student enrollment of just over 9,000 pupils, and students are housed in a pre-kindergarten annex, twelve elementary schools grades K-5, two middle schools grades 6-8, and a single campus high school with a separate facility for 9th graders. The population, exceeding three thousand students, makes it the third largest high school in the State.Character.org has named the Old Bridge Township Public Schools one of three National Districts of Character in the United States. In addition, five elementary schools: M. Scott Carpenter, Memorial, William A. Miller, Walter M. Schirra, and Southwood; and Old Bridge High School were each named a National School of Character.
The recognition as a National District of Character places Old Bridge under the national spot light as a premier school district in preparing our students as promising leaders of the future.
Character.org learned that the district was recognized as a New Jersey High Achieving District by the New Jersey Department of Education; saw a 47 percent drop in violence, vandalism, weapons, and substance abuse incidents since 2009; and all 12 elementary schools combined saw a 45.9 percent drop in discipline referrals since 2011.
After submitting, lengthy applications and undergoing on-site interviews, conference calls, and an analysis of the impact related efforts on academics, student behavior, and school culture, character.org recognized the district, which now has 11 National Schools of Character, 13 State Schools of Character, in addition to the National District of Character Honor.
Powerful professional development has allowed us to adopt a culture of positivity in Old Bridge Schools, and transfer those feelings into trust with our community. As a result of the positive paradigm shift in the culture and climate of our schools, we have witnessed a direct correlation between improved school climate and advancements in student performance.
This positive climate change has directly impacted student success through individual, intrinsic motivation, as well as the growth and professional development of the Old Bridge staff. We have experienced an increase in collaboration amongst staff, across grade levels, departments, buildings, and district wide. This team approach has increased our expertise and spread this knowledge exponentially, reaching more students, therefore providing greater opportunity for success on all levels.
A significant majority - 88.4 percent of students, staff, and families - reported they feel safe in Old Bridge High School, whose mantra is “Do the Right Thing.” The high school experienced an 88 point increase in SAT scores, the highest in Old Bridge history (while the national average has decreased, Old Bridge’s average has increased); and was an AP Honor roll recipient by the College Board for increasing access to Advanced Placement coursework and maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP Exams. The high school also has seen an 84 percent decline in fights and a 78 percent decrease in Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying (HIB) reports.
The district also has received accolades at sporting events from other coaches about how Old Bridge students treat one another.
Each year, schools and districts are selected that demonstrate through a rigorous evaluation process that their focus on character development has had a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, and school climate. Selected schools are then expected to serve as models for other schools, helping them to achieve the same results.
Old Bridge will now serve as a model and hopes to assist other districts through the rigorous process to achieve the same success for their students. The district will be working with the New Jersey Alliance for Social Emotional and Character Development (NJASECD) and the Middlesex County Superintendent’s Office to spread the word.
Recently, “Parade Magazine,” a national publication, featured Old Bridge and pointed out how working in a soup kitchen or collecting donations for the homeless can be empowering. The article also explained how helping students take care of one of their own is also empowering. It described when a member of the high school lacrosse team was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; the lacrosse team put together a charity game that raised more than $50,000 toward the student’s care.
It is a great accomplishment for our students, staff and community to be recognized (again) nationally for setting high standards and consistently reinforcing core values.
Old Bridge is one of three districts in the country, nationally recognized by character.org. Character Education is not fluff but rather the foundation for growing successful students who have limitless choices as they exit Old Bridge High School. We are OB Proud!