, Muskogee, OK

May 11, 2013

Rougher Alternative Academy named School of Character

It's only one in state to receive national honor this year

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Rougher Alternative Academy has been named a National School of Character by the Character Education Partnership.

“This district and this community can be very proud,” RAA Principal Larry Sholes said. “This district commits resources to educate all students.”

RAA, 600 Altamont St., is Muskogee Public Schools’ second school to receive the honor. Muskogee High School was named a National School of Character in 2011. The Character Education Partnership recognizes schools and district for their commitment to character education and for fostering a positive environment for social and academic learning, a CEP media release said.

“It’s very special for the students and the staff to be recognized in this way,” Superintendent Mike Garde said. “The culture built in the school shows they care about the students.”

CEP Vice President Joseph W. Mazzola said RAA was one of 29 schools across the United States to receive the honor for 2013. It is also the only Oklahoma school to be named.

Mazzola, who visited RAA in late April, said he was “struck by the incredible passion of the staff.”

“The staff is like a small, very close-knit family,” he said. “The leadership of the school is just fantastic, the passion he has.”

Mazzola also praised the school’s adventure program, art program and counseling.

“I was impressed with the collaborative spirit of the community,” he said, adding that teachers and counselors work together and share information.

Sholes said the National School of Character citation shows “this district really does value equity.”

“Our students have the same chance to succeed as those at other schools,” he said. “The classrooms have the same technology. The teachers have the same professional development resources.”

Sholes said students are reminded at every morning assembly to be successful.

“Every morning we recite the vision statement together,” he said.

The statement covers what Sholes said is “three things every student should know: What we are doing here is important. We believe you can do it. We’re not going to give up on you.”

One RAA teacher, Amanda McMillan, maintains a bulletin board that focuses on certain positive character traits, Sholes said. “If a teacher catches a student showing these traits, they put the student’s name on a card and put it on the board.”

The CEP media release said RAA was once considered a “dumping ground” for students not able to thrive in mainstream schools.

“Now, this alternative school has been transformed into an environment where all students may experience success,” it said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or