‘Leader in Me’ going strong

By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun

The Leader in Me program is making strides in the Kernville Union School District, and Principal Brian Poston could not be more pleased.

After spearheading the fundraising process in July and raising $50,000 in just one month to be used for the first year of the program, the district was able to begin training its staff in August.

While the Leader in Me program will not be fully integrated into classrooms until January in order to make time for staff training, the schools have already begun adapting to it. Some teachers are already amazed at how well young children understand the concept of the program.

“Teachers that are implementing it strongly are seeing significant stuff,” says Polston.

This year, the schools no longer have an ASB, but a “Leadership Team,” that is chosen using a method that more closely mirrors a hiring process than an election.

It begins with teachers choosing 15 students from each elementary school who show marked leadership potential. These students are given applications to fill out which ask them questions about what activities they would like to see the team involved in, whether they feel comfortable with public speaking, and what their plan is for keeping up on school work they may miss while participating in leadership events.

Next, they go through a sort of “job interview,” in which they are able to elaborate on their answers in front of a panel of school staff members.

Polston says that interestingly, when staff members asked what these students would like to see the Leadership Team involved with and expected them to answer with “more fun activities,” most of them actually responded in favor of service projects, such as providing meals or school supplies to the needy, as well as stopping bullying and keeping their campuses clean.

The Leadership Team’s responsibilities will include organizing school events and assemblies. This year’s team is currently focused on the upcoming Red Ribbon Week, October 23-27, in which they are picking themes, deciding on dress-up days and recording videos.

Next, they’ll be putting together the schools’ Veterans Day events, which will occur on November 7 for Wallace and November 9 for Kernville.

Fundraising for the next year’s program is also already well underway. While the start of school slowed down Polston’s hectic fundraising schedule, he noted that they are already about $10,000 into the $50,000 required for next year, and they’re already pursuing grants.

One of the largest upcoming contributors will be the Trick-or-Trot 1K/5K/10K Run that will be held again this year during Kernville’s Fall Festival. All proceeds from the run will go toward the Leader in Me program.

Registration and merchandise vary in price and can be found on www.onemoremile.us. Participants will be able to register online or in person at the One More Mile/Trick-or-Trot booth at Riverside Park on Saturday, October 28.

Polston estimates that currently, over 80 percent of the KUSD staff has been trained on implementing the “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” the basis of the Leader in Me program, in their own lives. The intent is to fully embrace the habits at home so that staff may act as models for the students as they begin implementing the program in the classroom.

Additionally, the district will be receiving training for 6-10 staff members in October to become certified in training the Seven Habits to curtail the cost and time restrictions of having outside trainers travel to the Kern River Valley.

Staff, parents and other community members are also encouraged to attend a Seven Habits training being held at Wallace Elementary on October 30 and 31. Materials for the training cost $115, a cost that Polston says the district will attempt to offset with scholarships for families who would like to attend but may not be able to afford the materials.

The Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, November 20-21, some staff members have volunteered to return to school for further training.

The first day, the focus is the “Launching Leadership” training, in which teachers will learn not only the importance of modeling the Seven Habits, but also how to integrate them into existing curriculum and teach them in a direct lesson.

The second focus is the “Creating Culture” training. This training teaches staff members how to create a school-wide culture that communicates the worth and potential of every student with the intention of inspiring them to see that worth within themselves.

The training is intended for all school staff members, not just those who will be teaching it in the classroom.

Polston says that the staff has been very receptive to the training; while there are no days in their contracts set aside for professional development, many have volunteered their time to participate. And out of those who would be missing the training due to the holiday week timing, he says that many were eager to reschedule so that they did not miss out.

Wallace Middle School will be participating in the Leader in Me program next year, and while there are not yet any concrete plans for KVHS’s involvement, Polston thinks that the success of the program will speak for itself.

“My hope is that it’ll be embraced by the high school, too,” said Polston. “We’re being watched. As we see things happening and moving forward, I think it’ll create more of an openness.”
And even if the program isn’t implemented in the later grades, Polston believes that the lessons the students learn in elementary grades will follow them through school anyway.

“They’re going to have good problem solving skills; they’re going to be good critical thinkers. They’re going to know how to work together with people,” said Polston. “So that makes me feel confident they’re going to be able to face whatever the future holds for them.”