Leadership program at Pleasant Lea hopes to make it ‘a beacon to other schools’

tporter@lsjournal.comMay 9, 2014 

  • $40,000

    Grant received by both Pleasant Lea and Highland Park Elementary schools to implement The Leader in Me leadership program at the schools.

Acclaimed leadership expert Stephen Covey would be proud of the students at Pleasant Lea Elementary School.

Pleasant Lea is one of two Lee’s Summit R-7 elementary schools helping students learn leadership skills through a school transformation model known as The Leader in Me. Highland Park Elementary is the other.

Each school received a $40,000 grant that covered training for staff members and materials for the program.

Students, faculty, staff and parent volunteers hosted a Leadership Day May 2 at Pleasant Lea to culminate the first year of the pilot program.

Based on Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” The Leader in Me includes curriculum and activities designed to help schools integrate leadership development into classrooms.

According to Pleasant Lea teacher Jeanie Cook, the program is a three-year process with schools involved reporting decreased student discipline referrals, elevated student achievement, increased staff collaboration and morale and increased parent involvement and satisfaction.

The proof is in the pudding at Pleasant Lea according to some of the students there.

“I like it,” said third-grade student Jada Williams. “It impacts my life. It helps me learn more things and pay attention during class.”

“I’m really happy about it because with a lot of students I’ve noticed big changes in how they act,” added Jordan Wood, a fifth-grade student who gave a speech on leadership during Leadership Day. “They want to be more involved in school.”

Another student, fifth-grader Cassidy Hood, said: “I think I’ve been more positive in thinking and being able to do my work and knowing that I can do it.”

Cook said within each school, hallways and classrooms were decorated throughout the year with signs and murals depicting the seven habits. The goal was to have visual reminders about leadership in all areas of the school.

“The kids have taken ownership of their own behavior,” Cook said, “and how others are behaving in school.”

According to the website at Pleasant Lea, staff members at the two schools worked together last summer to develop each school’s mission statement. When teachers returned to the classrooms in August, they helped students collaborate to create their classroom mission statements.

Leadership development among students began immediately with students taking on specific leadership roles in their classrooms. Fifth- and sixth-grade students applied for school-wide leadership jobs with each student being assigned to their first, second or third choice.

In addition, each student has a leadership notebook, sets individual goals, develops a plan to meet these goals and regularly evaluates progress.

“We have three years to achieve Lighthouse status,” Cook said. “That means we are a beacon to other schools to come try The Leader in Me. This is a life-change for our school. It’s going to be forever.”

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