In the Spotlight: Old Saybrook High School

Submitted by Gerald Hairston & Lillie Stuart, Technical Assistance Providers

In her first year as principal of Old Saybrook High, Sheila Riffle sought to enhance the school culture. Her vision was for the community, staff, and students to share a common vision of what it meant to be an OSHS “Ram.” All stakeholders needed to have acommon belief system for the institution to achieve its goals.

Under SPDG, SERC provided training and on-site technical assistance to support the implementation of Sheila’s vision. Sheila has used various structures such as the school’s weekly “advisory block” as a vehicle to analyze the core values and beliefs of the school, and to determine the attributes that best exemplified the school as a whole. Through a series of activities, students and staff determined that to be a Ram meant to have PRIDE: Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Excellence.

In the course of a year, the mindset around academics, personal responsibility, and discipline deeply encompass these attributes. Accordingly, the school saw a significant decline in disciplinary incidents during the 2013-14 academic year. Incidents of defiance decreased 20%, skipping class decreased 10%, and disruptive behavior decreased 5%.

Today, in the 2014-15 school year, P.R.I.D.E. is more obvious in the look and feel of Old Saybrook High. Around the school are reminders of the school’s new acronym. Under Sheila’s leadership, and the support of her committed staff, students are in class and more engaged in their learning. Collectively they are providing the foundation for effective instruction to take place across curricula and classrooms.

Published: November 13, 2014