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2014 News Releases

Longwood College of Business and Economics gives $10,000 to local elementary school to support leadership development

May 9, 2014

Dr. Paul Barrett (second from right), dean of Longwood University's College of Business and Economics, presents a $10,000 check to the Prince Edward County Schools to support The Leader In Me, a program that develops ethics and values-based leadership ski Dr. Paul Barrett (second from right), dean of Longwood University's College of Business and Economics, presents a $10,000 check to the Prince Edward County Schools to support The Leader In Me, a program that develops ethics and values-based leadership skills in children. On hand for the presentation are Dr. David Smith (left), superintendent; Russell Dove, School Board chair; and Diane Barrett, volunteer office manager for the SNVC Institute for Leadership and Innovation at Longwood.

At Prince Edward County Elementary School (PECES), discipline referrals are down 21 percent, and students have been energized with several new programs, including a daily TV news operation.

Surprisingly, Longwood University’s College of Business and Economics has been influential in bringing about these changes. On May 7, the college demonstrated the depth of its commitment to public education in its home community with a $10,000 gift to PECES.

Why is a university college of business so involved with an elementary school? Because developing ethical business leaders has to start much earlier than college, says Paul Barrett, business dean at Longwood.

Referring to the business ethics crisis in the mortgage industry, banking and investment companies, Barrett said, "It took a generation or two to bleed the USA of ethics and values, and it will take a similarly longer investment to re-infuse values back into the DNA of this society."

Barrett is pinning his hopes on a process called The Leader in Me, a school transformation model based on the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that has been implemented at 1,500 schools around the world, including 17 in Virginia. The 7 Habits principles are based on a 1989 book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, who founded a company that later became FranklinCovey. (Longwood receives no financial gain from FranklinCovey or Leader in Me.)

Barrett brought The Leader In Me to the attention of the Prince Edward County School System, and it was implemented at the county’s elementary school at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. The $10,000 gift from Longwood’s College of Business and Economics will support further implementation of the model at PECES next year.

Students already are taking The Leader in Me principles—which include leadership, responsibility, accountability and teamwork—to heart, say school officials.

"I see students taking more responsibility in their behavior, in their learning and in other activities around school," said Dr. David Smith, superintendent of the Prince Edward County Schools. "Even though it’s early, I know we will see positive change in the learning climate at each of the schools where it’s implemented."

PECES Principal Amy McCurdy said her school, which has 950 students in grades preK-4, already has seen positive results. "It’s been exciting to see the students use the [7 Habits] terminology with each other and the teachers. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students, faculty and staff," she said.

"Many of the schools with The Leader in Me show significant improvements in culture and behavior within a short time," said Barrett. "There is a ton of documentation that says that when it’s implemented, discipline problems go down, and test scores and morale go up. It dovetails perfectly with the values-based leadership we’re trying to instill in our students and with our commitment to our local schools."

Another proponent of The Leader In Me is G. Gilmer Minor III, chairman emeritus of Owens & Minor and vice chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

"It’s important to get youngsters thinking about leadership at an early age," said Minor. "The training based on The 7 Habits principles is invaluable and provides a transformational opportunity for young people. These principles are also transformational in the business world. They make people think about leadership, relationships and integrity. The whole package is really sound."

Barrett believes in the power of The Leader in Me and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People because he’s seen the basic principles work—in elementary schools, in universities and at companies. Longwood began The 7 Habits training of all faculty, staff and students in 2010 after receiving a $100,000 gift from Tom DeWitt, a 1998 Longwood graduate who is the president and CEO of SNVC, a Fairfax-based information technology firm. (SNVC, which embraces The 7 Habits throughout its corporate culture, was voted the top midsize employer for 2011 and 2012 by Virginia Business magazine.)

DeWitt’s gift helped create the SNVC Institute for Leadership and Innovation, housed in Longwood’s College of Business and Economics. Minor also was instrumental in the creation of the institute, which is a partnership among the university, SNVC and FranklinCovey.

"The institute is an effort to drive the values that our students need to leave here with," said Barrett. "The breakdown in business ethics occurred over a long time, and it will take a long time to build them back up."