Leader in Me program continues to be a top story

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Over the summer, local teachers were preparing to implement the Leader in Me program in all elementary schools across the district.

The program, brought to Vicksburg with fundraising help from the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, has been called a great success since it was first used in a few elementary schools in Vicksburg about five years ago. Each year more VWSD schools have implemented the program.

Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, all Vicksburg Warren School District elementary schools, as well as the Academy of Innovation, were using the school-wide behavioral program. Sherman Avenue, South Park and Warrenton were the final three elementary schools to start the program this fall.

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The program, based on Franklin Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” focuses on giving students leadership roles in their school. It is a schoolwide model that provides a basis for improving academic achievement, decreasing discipline problems and increasing engagement among teachers and parents.

Those seven habits students learn are: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand then to be understood, synergize and sharpen the saw.

The Academy of Innovation is the first local junior high school to use the program. The school’s leadership teacher Teresa Kitchens, who was previously at Bovina Elementary, said students take on leadership roles within the school and those with outstanding leadership skills will work on a student lighthouse team.

“I’ve seen that children really do take ownership of it and are proud of what they accomplish. I think it really helps them, and they keep up with their grades and data. They set goals and make plans on how to achieve those goals,” Kitchens said.

Teachers trained during the summer to learn the habits and how to use them in the classroom. During training, AOI principal Jason McKellar said the faculty learned about goal setting, being positive and conflict resolution. Kitchens said this training is important because the faculty needs to be an example to the students.

“We have to take ownership of that too, and show them that we live by those habits, and we do what we’re asking them to do,” Kitchens said.

In January, Vicksburg hosted the first Leader in Me Symposium in the state. The event brought national and international visitors to Vicksburg.

“This event is a culmination of years of diligent effort from our Chamber of Commerce/Vicksburg Warren School District partnership,” superintendent Chad Shealy said in January. “Because of the vision of a handful of amazing Vicksburgers combined with the generous contributions of so many supporters, people from abroad will be visiting our Leader in Me schools in order to begin emulating The Leader in Me structure within their districts.”

Bowmar and Bovina elementary schools were the first two schools in the state to be named Lighthouse Schools in 2014 meaning they were recognized by the nationwide Franklin Covey Organization as being model sites for the program.

“We know the success of Leader in Me,” Shealy said in 2014. “We have seen it at two of our schools and through our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, we are expanding. The exciting news is that Franklin Covey sees our success and wants to put our schools in the national spotlight as an example of excellence in education. It is a proud moment for this community and for the state.”