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Program gives schools a vocabulary for values

OCEANSIDE — This year Oceanside Unified School District implemented the Kids First program in its kindergarten through twelfth grade classes to give students and teachers a shared vocabulary about values. 

“It is an initiative in our district to look at children in a way that puts kids first and establishes a healthy, safe environment,” Larry Perondi, Oceanside Unified School District superintendent, said.

The district-specific program was developed by the district leadership team and Quantum Learning education research staff. It focuses on eight keys to good character. These keys are a jumping off point for each school to customize instruction to suit its students. Principals decide how to implement the keys through lessons and activities at their school sites.

The keys cover principles to achieve good mental and physical health, and productive learning and teaching. They stress purpose and character.

This year the key lessons of ownership, speak with good purpose, commitment, failure leads to success, integrity, flexibility, and balance were monthlong focuses districtwide.

“It’s a common language across the district,” Perondi said. “You can say it to kids on any playground and they’ll know what you’re talking about.”

“We have an obligation to take charge of our schools,” Perondi added. “There hasn’t been any opposition. It’s not in place of parents. It’s a solid foundation of character development. There’s nothing wrong with purpose and finding balance in life.”

During the school year community experts were called in to help support the lessons.

“Vista Community Clinic has a great program on cyber bullying,” Perondi said. “We reach out to those resources.”

Lessons were also expanded out into the community by faith-based groups that mirrored the keys to good character in their teen programs.

“We’re all supporting the same basic issue,” Perondi said. “Saint John Church is imbedding the keys in their high school program in their own context.”

District staff will meet this month to evaluate program outcomes and plan best practices to teach next school year.

Kids First is one part of districtwide health and safety practices, which include nutrition, support services and campus safety.