BARSTOW Crestline Elementary has partnered with local businesses that, like Crestline, find value in Stephen R. Covey's book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

It began two years ago when a push was underway to create more magnet schools in Barstow, according to Principal Dave Finch. Magnet schools are regular public schools with instruction that focuses on a particular theme, such as fine arts or science and technology

In Victorville, the school board had made it clear they wanted every school to be a magnet, Finch said. So the Barstow school board and principals visited several schools in the Victor Valley to learn how magnet-focused schools operate.

It was on one trip, when Finch saw Brentwood Elementary utilizing the seven habits.

"This is what my school needs," Finch thought to himself. "Our kids need this kind of leadership and focus."

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" presents an approach to reaching goals by following a certain code of character ethics.

As Crestline began implementing these ethics into programs at the onset of the 2011-12 school year a shift from magnet to leadership-based thinking Finch sent staff to Brentwood Elementary to observe its impact firsthand.

Each staff member went through training as well.

"You can't teach kids to use the seven habits," he said, "if the adults don't know how to use them in their life."

It was during training when Finch learned Panda Express makes use of the seven habits with their employees. After a teacher made contact with the manager at the Lenwood restaurant, Finch invited Panda Express to provide a real-world perspective with Crestline students and they did.

Since then, McDonald's, another seven-habit-friendly workplace, has also spoken to students at the school.

Those interactions have allowed students to "see what business leaders do," Finch explained.

Williams Homes in Barstow then donated seven signs to the school one habit and an associated character adorned to each that were placed in various areas of the campus.

"I'm really trying to make connections with our community leaders and businesses," Finch noted. "We're trying to provide our students with leadership skills for their future, whether they're college bound or workforce bound."

The school has recently incorporated another Covey book into their program, "The Leader in Me," along with two books from Covey's son, "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" and "7 Habits of Happy Kids."

Finch and a leadership team made up of Crestline teachers will attend a symposium in March at the Panda Express headquarters in Rosemead to exchange ideas with other like-minded schools.

On Tuesday, Panda Express will celebrate the Chinese New Year with students in two separate assemblies and, of course, talk more about the seven habits.

Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at