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Leader in Me Coming to ACIC

By Matt Pedigo  (The Citizen-Times)

   In its April regular session Monday, the Allen County Board of Education learned about the progress of one local school preparing to implement a national leadership program—and that the author of that program will be visiting Allen County to help get it rolling.

   Allen County Intermediate Center Principal Shawn Holland, formerly of Warren County’s Rich Pond Elementary, had helped implement “The Leader in Me” at that school. He’s now in the process of bringing the program to ACIC.

   The Leader in Me program had begun in 1999 with what was then a poorly-achieving school, Raleigh, N.C.’s A.B. Combs Elementary School. According to the program’s website,, the school “was asked to reinvent itself or be shut down.” Combs Principal Muriel Summers arranged a community forum, “asking parents and business leaders what they wanted in their schools.”

   They named the following qualities:  Leadership, accountability, adaptability, initiative and self-direction, cross-cultural skills, responsibility, problem solving, communication, creativity and teamwork.

   Summers, having attended a seminar for author Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, believed those concepts could be adapted in a culture-makeover program for elementary schools. She proved the answer to her own question. The Leader in Me has since spread to schools across the nation, and Covey published a book on it in 2008. The effects “where the rubber meets the road” were significant—by 2006, A.B. Combs had gone from a school with its back against the wall seven years earlier to national academic prominence.

   Holland said Rich Pond was in its third year is The Leader in Me when he came to ACIC—and he saw it work.

   “It teaches students to take ownership over their own lives,” he said. “All kids, to some degree, have leadership skills.”

   In terms of Allen County schools, ACIC will be the pioneer, implementing the program in the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.  (Allen County Primary Center is considering implementation the following school year, Superintendent Randall Jackson said.) In preparation, 26 ACIC faculty members have already attended trainings and seminars on it. In his term at Rich Pond, Holland formed connections with the program’s regional representatives, and had asked after coming to ACIC if it was possible to bring “someone really good to do our training here.”

   Holland got more than he asked for—Summers herself will be coming to Allen County to conduct the training on Monday through Thursday, July 27-30.

   As The Leader in Me is taking effect, parents or guardians of ACIC students will first notice a change in their child’s vocabulary, Holland said—words like “proactive” will come up.

   “Kids will do their homework first, and say they’re being ‘proactive,’” he cited as one example. “It will be first things first, then a transformation of the physical environment at school.”

   This will include posters, celebrations of successes and more.