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Image of Orono Activities Center with Character Pillars
Orono Schools Named 2024 CHARACTER COUNTS! Exemplary School District
CHARACTER COUNTS! Exemplary District Logo

Orono Schools is honored to be one of only three U.S. recipients of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Exemplary School District Award. This honor recognizes the district’s focused and intentional character education program that has impacted the lives of Orono students for more than 20 years. We invite you to read the March 7, 2024, press release.


Orono Schools continues its longstanding commitment to weaving character throughout the curriculum. We believe every child–at every developmental level–thrives within a common language of character and ethics. This program is an important part of districtwide goals, leadership programs and staff development initiatives.

We will help every child develop the core ethical values that lead to good character. Orono Schools' Character Goal

Six Pillars of Character

Character Goals

In Orono Schools, we believe that good character and ethical decision making are critical skills for children to succeed in life. We believe this comprehensive, ecological program is critical for children to feel safe, cared about, and engaged as responsible citizens in making ethical decisions throughout a lifetime. Our character development program is grounded in systemic, school-wide processes and classroom instructional practices.  These include: 

  • Adults as living examples for students, modeling problem solving based in ethics and shared values. Staff has been hired, trained in Character Counts!, evaluated and retained based on demonstrating ethical principles, as well as other key skills needed for positions.
  • Classroom management practices that are centered in community-based and responsive strategies, rather than punitive approaches discipline.
  • Conflict resolution and service learning as vehicles to facilitate character development in every classroom. 
  • Character development experiences and discussions that are layered on top of existing learning activities in classrooms to raise the level of critical thinking.

Classrooms of Character

To promote a positive school climate, the district has adopted a Classrooms of Character approach that integrates the Six Pillars of Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship) with social emotional learning. How is this demonstrated in our classrooms? 

Knowing that we touch the lives of others every day through attitudes, words and actions, we give students a common language that establishes behavioral expectations and guidelines for expressing their own feelings. This common language is a key classroom management strategy that empowers students to be self-aware, to self-manage behaviors, respect others and make caring decisions. These life competencies complement a student’s academic portfolio. 

Orono’s unique approach also focuses on supportive relationships and cultural competency. These principles form the fabric of our learning community. They are the essence of how we treat each other, value each other, and show empathy for each other. We believe students are more successful when these core ethical values are integrated into student life.

Five Fundamental Classroom Practices


Orono teachers and staff are the living role models of our character work. They focus on building strong relationships with students and demonstrating sincere care and concern. 


By melding character with social emotional traits (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness), we foster a respect for all members of our learning community.


We intentionally teach academics and desired social emotional skills and character traits that motivate students to make good choices. 


We provide schoolwide opportunities to integrate Character Counts! and promote a positive climate.


We practice character-based discipline by communicating desired behavioral expectations in class. This intentional approach helps students participate effectively in school.

Parent Guides

One of the benefits of the Character Counts! program is a common language that you can use at home, too. We welcome you to review the age-appropriate parent guides from Character Counts! titled, "A Family's Guide to Teaching Good Character:"