At the Stephen Decatur School students develop and hone their leadership skills by participating in the school-wide Leader in Me program.
Based on the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” The Leader in Me program equips students with the self-confidence and skills they need to thrive in the community and classroom.
In turn, students learn how to act responsibly through the daily practice of decision-making.
The seven habits from the book include be proactive (you’re in charge), begin with the end in mind (have a plan), put first things first (work first, then play), think win-win (everyone can win), seek first to understand then to be understood (listen before you talk), synergize (together is better) and sharpen the saw (balance feels best).
The program came to Decatur after the school received a grant from the Franklin Covey Foundation.
“We’re a Leader in Me school, so we promote leadership in all members of the community including children and adults.” said Decatur principal Genevieve Endy-O’Kane.
“We practice the seven habits where we teach these habits to the children at their age appropriate level from K-8,” she said. “We also have leadership guides.
“We’ve seen a big change in the culture and climate at our school because people are taking responsibility for their own actions, people are taking more initiative and we’ve become problem solvers,” she added. “It’s created a nice atmosphere at the school.”
Located at 3500 Academy Road, Decatur is a K-8 school with nearly 933 students.
The school’s vision is to provide quality instruction through a collaborative effort to ensure all students graduate from eighth grade ready for high school and beyond.
Endy-O’Kane said the school has six autistic support classrooms.
“We’re very inclusive at Decatur,” she said. “Even though our students may start in a self contained autistic support classroom, we try to mainstream them into the general education population as much as they can.
“We include them in every activity from being in the yard in the morning for our Pledge of Allegiance to being on the microphone for morning announcements,” she added.
“For our lunch program, we do something called reverse inclusion where some of the general population students will sit with students with special needs and vice versa so that they can have friends that are also in their classroom,” she said.
At Decatur, the teachers and staff have been going above and beyond to support their students.
Endy-O’Kane praised her staff by saying “they are the best in the district.”
“I have the most amazing staff,” Endy-O’Kane said. “They come in early and stay late. They’re very involved with the students, the families and the community. They’re amazing teachers who are great at their craft. They’re always striving to learn and grow.
“Our support staff, special ed assistants, and climate staff are also amazing,” she added. “They also have a connection with our students and families. Everyone here at Decatur is invested. They care and they’re extremely dedicated. I’m really blessed to have them.”
Decatur offers students a plethora of activities and programs in and outside of the classroom for them to participate in.
Some points of pride for the school include a Home and School Association, school advisory council, middle years electives, intervention programs, play productions, choir, and WHYY Media Lab grant recipients.
“We offer instrumental music to our students with string instruments as well as wind/percussion,” Endy-O’Kane said. “We have annual fall and spring concerts. We also have gifted programming.
“We also offer middle year students electives that they self elect quarterly,” she added. “Some of their options include advanced art, advanced physical education, creative design, educational games, film studies, Gamefroot, music/creative and performing arts and personal physical fitness. We feel this prepares them for high school.”
“We have before and after care programs, two are right in the building, the YMCA and Philly Kids,” Endy-O’Kane said. “We have a few rec center programs that come and pick up the children and take them to the local rec centers for their before and after care programs.
“We’re also about to start a lot of clubs shortly,” she added. “We want to do some leadership clubs after school and possibly move this to the community with the children.”
The proud principal said she wants her students to leave Decatur as leaders.
“Outside of our school we have a banner that says, “Leaders are made here,” she said. “That is something that we really promote at the school that all of us have genius in something and can be leaders.
“It starts with being the leader of your own life, in practicing our habits and we live them,” she added. “By doing that, you become your best self.”