Attendance is Up, Discipline is Down and Bibb County Students are Leading the Way
By Jamie Dickson
Photography by Chris Smith
A nationally recognized leadership program is transforming Macon-Bibb County’s students – and schools – one success-building habit at a time.
The Leader in Me is a character-driven leadership framework built on Stephen Covey’s bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The Business Education Partnership introduced the program to two elementary schools during the 2015-16 school year. Due to its success, now 21 elementary, middle and high schools are engaged in the program, with a total of 33 Bibb County schools participating next year.
Bernd Elementary School was one of the first schools to take on The Leader in Me curriculum. Nakeisha Leitzsey is in her ninth year as a counselor there, where her son, 10-year-old Savonta, was introduced to the program in 2016.
“I’ve seen a change in his drive. Before The Leader in Me, if he didn’t understand something or couldn’t get something done, he would get kind of frustrated and shut down,” Leitzsey said. “Now, when he doesn’t understand something, he immediately takes it upon himself to research or ask the teacher, me or even the principal. He takes initiative.”
According to the January 2019 Status Report on Macon Leader in Me, schools participating in the program reported a significant decrease in discipline referrals, an increase in student attendance and graduation rates, as well as improved test scores.
Dr. Chad Thompson is the principal at Bernd. He said The Leader in Me is a framework that goes far beyond the classroom.
“If students begin practicing ‘The 7 Habits’ at an early age, they have a firm, strong foundation on which to base each day and their future,” he said.
Since The Leader in Me was implemented at Bernd, there has been a 41.1 percent decrease in its total number of discipline referrals, according to 2016 and 2017 data gathered from Infinite Campus, the district’s data management system.
“With The Leader in Me, teachers now have talking points to help students resolve their behavior issues,” Leitzsey said.
Most importantly, the benefits of The Leader in Me don’t stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day.
“The Leader in Me helps Savonta not just in school, but it helps him in life, period,” Leitzsey said. “He comes home to tell me about it, and he uses it at home. That’s astonishing to me – that it’s taught at school and within the school spectrum, but he also brings it back home and he can relate to it at home.”