Administrators at W. Reily Brown Elementary School are counting on a $65,000 grant from the national “Leader in Me” program to strengthen the image of its student body. Brown will be the first school in the Caesar Rodney School District to incorporate the program into its lessons.

“We’ve been wanting to improve our climate,” Assistant Principal Wendy Whitehurst said. “We wanted to build a new culture for our children.”

Leader in Me is a national program teaching kids leadership skills and how to be more productive. Whitehurst first got the idea after visiting the Appoquinimink School District, where several schools were already using the program.

Whitehurst said she was further affected by the book “Leader in Me” by Sean Covey.

“The children actually took us on a tour of the school and showed us how they were integrating the ‘seven habits’ into everything that they do.”

The seven habits of effective people, subject of an earlier Covey book, include: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand and then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw.

Whitehurst said the grant will pay for Leader in Me coaches who will visit the school, materials and the ability to use the Leader in Me website.

A pilot program began in fall 2014. Mentors came to Brown and taught five different teachers how to utilize the seven habits. When the academic year begins, three to five teachers will be designated Leader in Me experts who will pass on skills to the students.

“We wanted to teach them not only academically but socially,” Whitehurst said. “It just seemed like the perfect fit for our children.”

Principal Susan Frampton agreed with Whitehurst, saying the program is also important for preparing kids for the future.

“One of the things we want our children to be able to do is be masters of their own lives,” Frampton said. “And there’s no better time than when you’re young and willing to open up to and learn new things.”

But leadership skills aren’t the only reason teachers like it. Whitehurst said it also decreases the number of disciplinary issues the school has to deal with. During the trial they compared discipline issues in kids who were in the program with students who were not.

“The data showed the teachers who were piloting the Leader in Me program had zero to no disciplinary problems opposed to the classes that weren’t doing [it.]”

Frampton said the program will serve as a means of teaching kids how to handle their differences.

“We are all different and we want them to celebrate those differences as a community,” she said. “It’s okay that we have different opinions – it’s not okay that we don’t treat each other respectfully.”