The teachers and students of the tiny farming community of Waterville, WA (its mascot, the Shocker, is a shock of wheat), are truly focused on educating the whole person—not just focusing on academics in order to raise test scores. As a result, they could very well be raising scores higher than a pure academic focus alone could accomplish.
I (NWPE executive director Cindy Omlin) recently traveled to Waterville, location of one of Washington state’s “local only” teacher unions, to attend the Waterville Leadership Day in order to discover what was happening among the staff and students there. I was met at the door by proud elementary school greeters who looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and warmly welcomed me to their school. They thanked me for coming to their Leadership Day, gave me a tour of the school and escorted me to the proceedings. What I experienced that day was a cohesive, caring educational environment where all children receive guidance and instruction in the thinking and behavioral traits that develop their leadership potential, not just for the future, but for the here and now.
The forward-thinking school district is implementing The Leader in Me, a three-year school-wide process which seamlessly integrates leadership development into the daily curriculum. Every student is encouraged to set and achieve meaningful goals, be a positive influence on others, and use his or her individual gifts to better the world. Students and staff together transform the culture and school performance by cultivating leaders who T.H.R.I.V.E. (Trust-Honor-Respect-Integrity-Valor-Evolving Excellence).
Produced by FranklinCovey, the program provides professional development, staff and student resources, community networking opportunities, and ongoing coaching to ensure quality implementation and sustainability. The program draws on the content and tools of FranklinCovey which include The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®.
I learned through dynamic, entertaining student presentations that the leadership skills being fostered 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)
- Sharpen the Saw (balance feels best)
Prior to implementing the program, the teachers practiced what they were about to preach by proactively taking charge of their own professional association. After listening to a presentation by Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE) about their options for bargaining, the resources available to help them, and how to implement the “local only” model for bargaining, the teachers formed the Waterville Teacher Leadership Council (WTLC) to replace their affiliate of the Washington Education Association (WEA). They petitioned the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) for a representation election. PERC, which oversees labor law in Washington State, conducted a secret ballot vote providing teachers with a choice between the WEA affiliate and the WTLC. PERC certified the WTLC as the teachers’ new bargaining agent after winning a majority vote. Attorney Ed Dawson assisted the teachers with the PERC procedures required to certify an alternative bargaining unit.
As an independent, “local only” association, Waterville’s teachers were freed from the cost, agendas and priorities of state and national teacher labor unions. Most of the teachers chose to join NWPE for professional protection and support (such as liability insurance and legal services, grants, scholarships, policy updates, classroom resources and professional development), but a few chose to remain with the WEA. Their new bargaining model, saves most teachers about $500 a year and unites all of them around common interests such as focusing on win-win solutions that place local needs and relationships as the staff’s highest priorities. (A radio interview with includes a conversation about Waterville's "local only" bargaining model which includes partnering with NWPE is available here.)
Waterville’s ripple effect has reached Mansfield, Oroville Tonasket, Omak, Cascade, Orondo, and Okanogan, communities which have all contacted Waterville about implementing the program in their own schools. Oroville has received a grant to implement The Leader in Me and Mansfield will start the process soon without a grant.
Waterville School District is two years into the 3-year program, well on its way to harvesting an abundant shock of successful leaders for the 21st century. We congratulate the administrators, staff, students, and their benefactors who must be immensely gratified to observe the students' leadership, compassion, confidence, and teamwork bear fruit in their lives and larger communities. We thank you for your dedication and hard work helping children reach their full potential and for advancing the professionalism of educators.
To learn more about Waterville’s The Leader in Me program or the "local only" bargaining model utilized by Waterville teachers, contact NWPE member Justin Grillo, 3rd grade teacher in the Waterville School District who is featured discussing the process Watervill teachers employed to become a "local only" bargaining association in this videotaped interview .
Pictures of people (top to bottom): 1. Waterville students; 2. Music teacher Mr. AJ Brodin (L) with student; 3. Jr-Sr HS Principal Tabatha Mires (L) with Superintendent Cathi Nelson (R)