FRONTENAC — Frank Layden Elementary School capped off its annual Leadership Week celebration with an assembly Friday.

“From when our kids start with us at preschool all the way through fifth grade, we talk about being leaders,” Frank Layden Elementary Principal Courtney McCartney said. “Throughout this week especially, we’ve talked about what it takes to be a leader and how to push forward with everything.”

Every year since 2011, students have raised money for various charities and organizations. Along with making a difference in families’ lives, the students’ reward for reaching $1,000 has been the opportunity to pie teachers in the face.

“I had parents telling me the kids were reaching into their piggy banks because they really wanted to pie their teachers,” McCartney said. “I always say that if they hit $1,000, I let them vote on what they want to do, and they decided to duct-tape me to the wall.”

However, in an unprecedented move for the school, the students exceeded expectations and raised more than $3,000. McCartney said that the money will be split among three charities: St. Jude’s Research Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and Children’s Miracle Network.

“When they hit $2,000, some kids suggested the idea to spray silly string all over me,” McCartney said. “Then they hit $3,000 and I said ‘OK, we’re good.’”

Friday’s assembly definitely appeared to be a worthy payoff for the students, too.

“Getting to pie teachers and tape Mrs. McCartney to the wall was the best part of this week,” said student Sophia Merando. “I also learned that, to be a leader, you should be nice and treat others how you want to be treated.”

McCartney said the most rewarding part of Leadership Week has been the opportunity to watch her students work as a team.

“We talk about the state assessments that are coming up after spring break, but that’s not our focus,” she said. “Our focus here is about being a good person and learning how to get along with each other.”

The principal applauded her faculty for trying to make the event as fun as possible.

“Everybody likes a little motivation, so it was great to see the teachers step up and be willing to take pies to the face,” McCartney said. “If you add a little fun to something, it makes your work a little bit easier.”

Looking beyond the fun of the assembly itself, McCartney said that her students recognize the positive impact that their donations will have on others.

“We talk about how you’re helping other children and families through hard times,” she said. “Our kids just went above and beyond because they keep wanting to push it and push it.”

— Brandon Schmitz is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be reached at