‘Leader’ program in Fayette school gets rave reviews

A panel from Fayetteville’s Spring Hill Elementary School at an April 25 educational town hall meeting included(L-R) Raleigh, N.C., school principal and “The Leader in Me” spokeswoman Muriel Summers, Spring Hill parent Pam Reed, consultant Julius Pryor, school Principal Randy Hudson, students Brianna Reynolds and Andy Palmer and teachers Amy Hensly and Jeff Angelo. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The Fayette County community on April 23 got a chance to hear about a program adopted two years ago at Spring Hill Elementary School in Fayetteville. Panelists at the “The Leader in Me” presentation explained how the program has positively impacted, students, parents and teachers. Leading the discussion on the whole-school transformational model was Muriel Summers, principal of the A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C.

Panelists at the meeting included Summers, parent Pam Reed, consultant Julius Pryor, principal Randy Hudson, students Andy Palmer and Brianna Reynolds and teachers Amy Henley and Jeff Angelo.

Asked how the program began at Spring Hill, Hudson said that journey started five years ago when staff were asked what they wanted for the school’s future.

“We brought in parents, students and business stakeholders and we looked at models like The Leader in Me and Stephen Covey staff came to talk to us. And the school community decided to go with the program,” Hudson said.

The cost of the program was $25,000 over three years. The funds to implement the program came from money raised by the school’s PTO and through business donations, said Hudson.

From the teachers’ perspective, the program is resulting in a dramatic difference in students’ self-confidence and their interactive ability with adults, Henley and Angelo said.

And asked from the parent’s perspective if the program was a benefit to children, Reed said, “A resounding ‘yes.’ I previously went through the Covey training. That book changed the culture of the organization I worked in. And customizing it to little people is amazing.”

Now being implemented in more than 1,000 schools worldwide, the program increases students’ self-confidence, teamwork, initiative, creativity, leadership, problem-solving, communication, diversity awareness and academic performance. The program also improves school culture, decreases disciplinary issues, increases teacher pride and engagement and results in greater parent satisfaction and involvement, according to www.theleaderinme.org

Spring Hill is the only Fayette County elementary school currently using The Leader in Me model, though Braelinn, Huddleston and Minter elementary schools are considering the program.

“The Leader in Me” is an educational application of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Those habits include being proactive, putting first things first, beginning with the end in mind, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand and then to be understood, synergizing the combined strength of individuals and “sharpening the saw” to create a long-term effective lifestyle.

The idea behind The Leader in Me involves a establishing an innovative, school-wide model emphasizing a culture of student empowerment that unleashes each child’s full potential. By using Covey’s seven habits, teachers and students internalize leadership principles that nurture the skills students need for success, Summers explained.

“The program has made an amazing difference in academics and in the emotional wellbeing of our children,” Summers said.

Summers in responding to a question said the program is one that is relevant for all children.

“Unless you’re planning this for all students, don’t bother,” she said.

Using The Leader in Me model, A.B. Combs Elementary in 2006 became the nation’s top magnet school.

The presentation was part of a town hall meeting promoting education initiatives and the proposed Fayette County College and Career Academy.

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