Dear CEP Friends,
My many thanks to all of you. Yes, it is gratitude that overwhelms me this week as I step down as CEP President and CEO.
I accepted this position two years ago with the blessing of CEP founder Sandy McDonnell, who sadly passed away less than 80 days after I took office. Every minute since has been an honor and a privilege for me here to carry on Sandy’s torch and to devote myself to advancing his defining life mission for this organization: to provide the vision, leadership and resources for schools, families and communities to develop ethical citizens committed to building a more just and caring world.
Two years of nonstop travel to speaking engagements, vision events with supporters, and various CEP related work has taken me from Milwaukee to Malaysia, from Los Angeles to London, and countless points in between. As many of you know, I’ve been commuting between my home in Colorado and CEP’s offices in Washington DC since I started. I now realize that it is time for me to go home, where I will still work to help young people throughout the state. Indeed, Sandy McDonnell valued family above all else, so I feel certain he would support my decision.
Over the last 24 months, I feel especially fortunate to have worked with CEP’s dedicated staff, its Board of Directors, as well as its Education Advisory Council and Presidents’ Advisory Council. From my travels, as well as my exhilarating experiences at the last two National Forums, I now know how CEP has helped so many schools and educators across this great nation to create safer, more nurturing and supportive learning environments for tens of thousands of young people over the last two decades. In 2013, alone, in addition to our conferences, CEP leadership addressed nearly 2,000 students directly via several inspirational speeches and talks. Meanwhile, members across the U.S. submitted 435 ‘Promising Practices’ to us for consideration, and we had 131 applicants as National Schools of Character. We know our mission and our messages are spreading. Among educators, some 400 completed our 11 Principles training here in the U.S., while overseas, more than 900 attended sessions in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. In fact, the Philippines and Canada now both have national character education organizations modeled after CEP.
Our last two annual Forums featured our first two International Summits as pre-conference draws, and each served as inspiring reminders that character is valued in every corner of the world. This year’s pre-conference lineup also featured our first-ever School Safety Summit, which looked anew at the urgent issue of school violence and prevention through the prism of character education and school climate. A testament to CEP’s growing impact is that, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, we were asked to be a member of the White House Task Force on School Violence. Together we helped to shape the Administration’s response, embodied in its legislative proposal to improve school climate nationwide. To me, this was a significant step for CEP, to represent all of the nation’s character education community on the White House’s short list of education advisors.
Of course, more remains to be done, regarding school climate, and other pervasive issues of character regarding everything from cyber-bullying and cheating to ‘zero tolerance’. Wherever young people will be faced with difficult decisions, CEP’s goal remains to make sure that character figures into their thinking. I am very confident that I am leaving CEP in the best of hands by handing over the torch to Becky Sipos, our Chief Operating Officer, and former Director of Communications. She will become CEP’s interim President. Many of you already know Becky as the “heart and soul” of CEP for many years now. As a former award-winning teacher, she knows what is needed in classrooms and schools.
I ask that we all support Becky in every way we can to grow CEP’s influence and impact worldwide. I’m proud to support Becky, our wonderful staff and the Board at CEP. Indeed, I will remain committed to this organization’s mission. As I depart, I find myself still agreeing with the belief expressed by Dr. Charles Haynes, our board chairman, when he recently said that, “CEP’s best years are most certainly yet to come.”