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CHARLESTON -- A plan the Charleston school board approved Wednesday is designed to help students with goal-setting and other character traits.

That was how district Assistant Superintendent Kristen Holly described the "Leader in Me" program based on the book "The 7 Habitats of Highly Effective People."

She told the board that the initiative is the "final piece of the puzzle" toward a more independent approach to teaching students, not only subject matters but such things as social skills.

It will go along with the competency-based education program the district is implementing, a method that emphasizes allowing students to work toward skill levels, she said.

"This prepares students for competency-based," Holly said. "It prepares them for setting goals and becoming independent leaders."

As with the competency-based education method, district administrators and teachers learned about "Leader in Me" by visiting other schools using the approach, Holly also told the board.

She said they were impressed by how articulate students were, including those in younger grades, and by similar characteristics they'd developed.

"Each student is taught to find their own leadership skills," Holly said. "It has a lot of potential."

Implementing the program will mean some teachers will have to travel for training, but they'll be able in turn to train others in the district, she also said. "Every adult" who has contact with students will take part, she explained.

The need for some of the social skill education is apparent, Holly added, as "everyone's been saying we need it." District staff have reported that some students are lacking in the area and down the road that could impede them in their careers, she said.

The estimated cost of the training, materials and other expenses is about $100,000 but district federal funds should cover the cost, Holly said.

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Nonetheless, she told the board that there's an invitation for business partnerships that could contribute to the funding.

The board's vote approving the program was 7-0 and it will be put in place starting with the 2019-20 school year.

In other votes Wednesday, the board set student fees for the coming school year. They included an increase in school meal prices but a decrease in student activity fees and others.

The fee per activity will decrease and there will also be a return to a cap on the maximum amount any one family will have to pay, district Assistant Superintendent Chad Burgett said.

The per-family cap was eliminated as part of budget cuts about five years ago, but the district's financial situation now can allow it to return, he said.

"It's providing some respite," Burgett said.

He also said the 10-cent increase in meal prices is based on federal guidelines.

The board also approved a new contract for fuel for the district's school bus transportation provider, Illinois Central School Bus Co.

The low bid was just more than $2.34 per gallon from Effingham Equity Inc., the previous supplier.

Illinois Central School Bus Inc. the bus the district uses, bills the district each month for the fuel it uses for transportation services for the district.

Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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