Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 25, 2013

Program promotes leadership, character

Mike James
The Independent

RACELAND — Proponents of a character-building program for schools gathered Tuesday with community leaders and educators from all six school districts in Boyd and Greenup counties for a promotional overview.

The program is called “The Leader in Me,” and its advocates say it leads to better test scores, fewer discipline problems and a more cohesive bond among students and faculty.

“It’s not something you do. It’s truly how you communicate with people,” said Heather Aldrich, principal of Russell-McDowell Intermediate School. Her school has used the program for four years and in that time academic achievement has improved and discipline referrals have dropped, she said.

The program works not as an added curriculum but as an integral part of the school’s culture. Rather than teach it once a day, its principles are embedded in every class and activity, and faculty receive training and are expected to embrace its standards.

It is based on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the popular self-help book by Stephen R. Covey. Simplified for children, the habits promote responsibility, efficiency, cooperation, time management and continued improvement.

“The kids are really excited about the program. They love learning about the habits and love to share them,” said Deidra Patton, one of two coordinators of Boyd County’s gifted and talented program.

The program started in 1999 at a struggling elementary school in Raleigh, N.C.; its principal was familiar with the seven habits concept and worked to develop an age-appropriate equivalent. The school since has become one of the top magnet schools in the country.

The program’s success both locally and nationally is good reason to bring it to every school in all six districts in the two counties, said Marsha Applegate, a retired teacher who heads an informal community group seeking to promote it.

The grass-roots group intends to do more than cheerlead, however. Its next step will be to set up a structure for fundraising efforts, Applegate said.

The program is expensive and requires licensing and acquisition of curricular materials. Applegate hopes her group can impress area business leaders and other potential patrons to help bring it to schools.

“‘The Leader in Me’ leads to better schools, and better schools lead to a better economy and less crime,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.