LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Michele Savage

Position: Principal
School: Shue-Medill Middle School
School District: Christina School District
City, State: Newark, DE

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Michele Savage was nominated by her colleague, Christina James.

"I have personally known Michele since 1998, when we were colleagues at another school," said James. "She was a social studies teacher at the time. She moved to an elementary school in another district for a few years, and then returned to Christina School District as the assistant principal of Newark High School. Michele resided there for 9 years. Her time there helped her grow into an organic, innovative leader. She brought the remarkable Cambridge Honors Program to Newark, with students completing all the necessary skills and coursework to graduate with non-AP college credits, one of the first in northern Delaware."

Ms. Savage supervised the Positive Behavior Support program, afterschool activities, and a host of other programs, while collaborating with administration and staff to help improve the school climate at Newark.

"I cannot speak to all the improvements in her care as I was not at Newark at the time," said James. "I can speak as a parent who sent my child to Newark, since the school's data was showing overall academic and behavioral improvements." 

Ms. Savage helped Newark achieve success in many areas over her time there. Afterwards, she was placed at Shue-Medill Middle School to help the students and staff regain their strength, positivity, and improve our overall wellbeing. She has done just that.

When Ms. Savage started as the principal in 2014, Shue-Medill faced many challenges. Staff morale was at an all-time low. Students often wandered the halls, and teachers were at a loss of how to improve their current situation and communicate positive change with parents. 

One might ask how Ms. Savage has pulled a school from such a negative state of mind. She accomplished this by leading by example. She realizes that it takes a team, a village, a collective group to move everyone forward. Ms. Savage is not afraid to cover a class when her school is short on substitutes. If there is a rain storm while buses are unloading, she will be the first to mop the floor to prevent slipping. She sits through math curriculum training and learns beside her math teachers. Ms. Savage works with community members to bring in resources and programs, such as Wyldlife (a youth program run by the local church) and Delaware Fish and Wildlife (to help create an outdoor classroom.) 

Ms. Savage not only works tireless hours for her own ideas and initiatives, but she supports teachers who want to have a voice and run with a research-based practice or idea that benefits the classroom. She has assisted teachers in hosting book studies, e-courses for social-emotional learning, conferences on trauma-informed classroom practices, and numerous ideas and events staff have wanted to do in and out of classrooms. 

Ms. Savage takes the time to listen to all stakeholders and parties. At the district level, she advocates for what is best for students and ensures that any district mandates are for the benefit of students. She works with fellow administrators to divide and conquer the long list of logistical responsibilities, and she leans on their strengths to improve school climate and academics. She uses school improvement science methods she learned from partnering with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to confer with teachers on what is and isn't working in classrooms. The teachers' AIM is to reduce the ninth grade retention rate of former Shue students.

Furthermore, Ms. Savage reaches out to parents via the PTA, newsletters, meetings (formal and informal), sporting events, and a variety of other avenues to enlist support, feedback, and opinions. She also enlists the student voice to help make changes on a school level, as well. Students have been taught the school improvement science methods, and the student improvement team can use the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle to evaluate what is working and not working on a student level. The students' AIM is to reduce the amount of students leaving Shue in grade 6-8 to attend other schools. 

Without Ms. Savage's desire to improve the school climate and academic practices, Shue-Medill would not be where it is now. Over 85% of students self report a growth mindset, and that working hard at school is okay. Over 70% of students report they feel safe and cared for at school. The 9th grade retention rate has dropped from 1/10 to 1/14 over the past five years. No student has failed sixth grade in two years. The behavior referral rate has been reduced from 250 offensive touching/fighting referrals in 2015-16 to 40 in in 2018-19. The student population has increased by 100 students. Every teacher is currently enrolled in social-emotional and academic e-courses addressing struggling students. Ms. Savage supports using the e-course material in weekly PLC (Professional Learning Community) meetings so teachers can collaborate and focus on current trends in the classroom. 

Overall, Ms. Savage has supported the students, staff, and community through her caring attitude towards students. She truly has their best interest in mind, but she recognizes that all stakeholders are important in raising up the middle schoolers.

"We are Tigers and we Roar to Achieve; but, we couldn't find our voice until Mrs. Michele Savage entered our school and helped us all find it," said James. "She is a great leader and principal, but most of all, a compassionate educator who truly wants to see her students and staff thrive in a place of community and love."

Comments (17)

Amy Parke Posted over a year ago

I have always gotten to see the positive, caring side to Ms. Savage. I have had some tough non-school behavioral issues with my son and every time I am in the school, Ms. Savage makes it a point to check and see how I and my son age doing. I have seen her check in with Jacob as well—offering a hug and a positive word. She knows each student by name. That is impressive and speaks very highly of her. In addition, she has always kept us parents well-informed via the weekly newsletter as well as when other situations have arisen.

Reid Millius Posted over a year ago

I believe Ms. Savage deserves this recognition because she will go above and beyond for both the children and their families. I had the pleasure of having Ms. Savage as an administrator for three of my children. And even when she was no longer my children’s administrator/principal she continue to support me as a parent in advocating for the best education for my children. This is the ultimate action of true dedication and commitment to her profession and the families she serves.

Melody Johnson Posted over a year ago

I’m so impressed every time I go to my granddaughters feel the positively as soon as you walk in the door. The staff all care about each other and they all respect Michelle! This is the sign of a true leader, and someone who leads by example. I’m so grateful in today’s society’s my granddaughter sees her as a role model. We need more people like Michelle. Thank you for all you do at, your actions don’t go unnoticed.

Denise Stout Posted over a year ago

Michele Savage is the most supportive principal I've ever worked with! She loves our students and also cares for our staff. Michele is always open to new ideas that could benefit all the members of our Shue community. When I wanted to start what is now our Friends For All club, she was our biggest supporter, and she still is! Michele understands how important inclusion of students with all abilities is, and makes that a priority both for the FFA club, and also for my autism support classroom. She makes everyone, either student, or staff member, feel special and valued!

Kristine Turner Posted over a year ago

I am a 2nd year parent of a Shue student and I can not speak highly enough about Mrs Savage! One of my first interactions with her told me all that I needed to know about her, she truly cares! I attended my first Shue PTA meeting a few days after there had been a threat against the school. Mrs Savage was there and relayed the whole sequence of events to the parents in attendance. She broke down in tears talking about it. It showed me how much she cares about the school, the students and the staff. I have since become more involved with the PTA and I have had the pleasure of working with her more and on different occasions. I can tell that she takes her job seriously, she makes it her mission to know her students, all 900+ of them. She has fun with them, she is tough on them when she needs to be, she will fight for them. We heard many things about Shue before our daughter started there. I chose to only listen to people who had a student currently at Shue and that narrowed the comments to only positive ones. Now that my child is halfway through year 2 at Shue, I am happy with our decision to send her to Shue and I can clearly see that Mrs Savage is a big part of the reason why those old negative stories about Shue are a thing of the past.

Jennifer Balkie Posted over a year ago

As a school psychologist in the district for 17 years, I have worked with many principals and Ms. Savage is by far the most hard working, positive, supportive, caring principal I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She would do absolutely anything for her students, staff, and families and never asks her staff do do more than she is willing to do herself. Michele jumps in whenever needed and always goes above and beyond the role of principal... she doesn’t hesitate to cover a class, sign up for the student staff basketball game, or even get slimed to support her students! She is the first to thank you for a job well done and always puts a positive spin on everything she does. She sees the strengths in every student and always fights for what is best for her students. She treats our families with respect and makes all feel listened to and understood. With a shortage of school psychologists in our district, Michele understands the heavy workload and does all that she can to lessen my load even if it means taking on even more herself. She fights for resources to make sure that our kids and families have the best possible supports and services and has truly made an impact in the morale and climate at Shue Medill. There is no one more deserving of this honor.

Ralph Ferretti Posted over a year ago

Three years ago, Ms. Savage welcomed me to collaborate at Shue-Medill School on a project designed to help middle school kids write about controversial issues. There is general agreement that kids write poorly, especially when they must account for the perspectives of other people. Instead of working together to resolve their differences, kids (an adults!) usually hold on to their biases and resist consideration of reasonable alternatives. Ms. Savage and her colleagues agree that these biases appear in the students' writing, but they originate in the ways that children speak with each other. With this in mind, we developed some lessons that focused of what we called "critical discussions." In these discussions, kids learned a process for considering other perspectives, as well as the skills that are needed to support their writing. There is much left to do, but as a result of her support, we were able to secure federal funding to continue the work. This would not have been possible without Ms. Savage's commitment to continuous improvement. She understood that it would take time to develop the lessons, and more importantly, to refine them. She also understood that the process would require that we collect and evaluate evidence about the children's progress. In short, she understands that growth requires a sustained commitment over time to achieving important goals. Their are no simple fixes when it comes to promoting children's development. Ms. Savage is a remarkable school leader who inspires the respect and admiration of her colleagues. This is because she works every day to support their professional development. I'm honored to be welcomed at the Shue-Medill School and am thankful for the opportunity to work with her and her colleagues to support their students' development.

Elaine Jefferson Posted over a year ago

Wow, what can I say about Ms. Savage? She brings her heart and soul to work each day. She is determined, honest, a real go-getter and an advocate for both students and teachers. Ms. Savage is the backbone of our school while allowing us all to find our niche and do what is best for students. As one of the Assistant Principals at Shue-Medill I witness first hand all of the caring and awesome things she does for students like visiting a student over the Thanksgiving Break who has been placed in a group home setting and taking him out to dinner. Why?... because his mother couldn’t find time in her busy schedule to do so! This is just one example of how Ms Savage loves our students. She challenges the administration team to do our best to support and help our teachers grow so they can best service our students. She gets it! She knows what the big picture is all about... DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR STUDENTS! I’m so proud to have her as my principal because I know that she will never steer us in the wrong direction. Of course she sometimes gets frustrated but that’s only because of her passion for education and wanting things to positively change. She never gives up and she works tirelessly to make a difference. She truly lives up to her name. She is a SAVAGE when it concerns doing what is right for students. You’ve got to love her!

Annie Slater Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of having Michele as my Principal at Shue for the past 4 years. Michele has helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life. She influenced me to take an interest in half marathons and was my cheerleader during my first race back in 2018. I will never forget how she encouraged me to take up running when I was going through a difficult time. She has taught me many life lessons inside and outside of the work place. Michele allows teachers to have a voice at her school by listening to their ideas and believing in them. She has allowed me to take the initiative to run different Social Studies trips, which I really appreciate. I have also yet to see a person who is as optimistic and positive as Michele. She constantly is able to see the good in every situation. I honestly look up to Michele as a mentor and a role model figure for myself. I am thankful that she is in charge of our school because I know that she truly cares about our students and staff. She is willing to try any new ideas to help improve our school climate for students and staff. She fights for what is right for her school and is a very determined, caring, and hard working person!!!

Robert Jefferson Posted over a year ago

I have had the opportunity to work with Michele for the last 15 years, beginning as Assistant Principals together at Newark High School. Michele brings a passion to education that is contagious. She looks for ways to promote opportunities for all students through challenging curriculum and leadership opportunities. This was first evident in the establishment of the Cambridge program at Newark High School. Through her leadership she was able to establish a program to provide a unique opportunity for our students. This very model was then moved to our middle schools within the district. Outside of this program, Michele has been a champion for equity for all students. Working to introduce programs and opportunities to engage all of the students she serves. She worked to establish the Best Buddies program to integrate our special needs students with our regular education students so that both groups could work together on a common cause. She has taken a lead in working to implement school change through Improvement Science in her role as principal at Shue-Medill Middle School. Michele has also been a mentor for me in my efforts to bring about school improvement and meaningful programming in my own middle school. She is always there to offer support and guidance, something that is truly valued.

Rebecca Uniatowski Posted over a year ago

I love your dedication to not only your students but the staff as well. Thank you for all you do.

jenifer jurden Posted over a year ago

I have worked with Michele to create a very unique anti bullying program at Shue Medill Middle school with my character, Jurdy. We launched a “Kind is cool” campaign and Michele’s vision was instrumental in branding kindness with all of her students. She has drastically reduced bullying and increased positive results in her school in unprecedented ways. She worked with our creative team to bring Jurdy to all of her students as the hero of happiness and the friend to each student. Since the inception of Jurdy’s program, Michele’s energy has been contagious in that they launched their “Jurdy Agent” program ( peer to peer anti bullying support) and many other creative extensions of Jurdy with the students. Michele is helping to forge a new path in how students are taught respect, kindness and realizing their full potential. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more positive role model for children... she is a leader, a promoter, an influencer and a mentor to all, especially her students. She brings dynamic change for the good of all and generates a happy culture in education. I can’t think of a more deserving person for this award. She works tirelessly for children and all of those in education. #LCOY

Randye Harrison-Dixon Posted over a year ago

I COULD go on forever with what I could share about what a tremendous impact this woman has had on our school...our school climate.....our school’s energy.... our school’s culture....She is my principal....she is my leader....I would stand next to or behind her in any decision she makes because she had NEVER not put us first in what she does in our building. She has allowed me to build a program of community and social activists who want to change the world. She has allowed me to be expressive and creatively free. She is the first and only principal I have ever had whose door is ALWAYS open...literally..... she brings laughter and smiles and excited energy into our building everyday with her silliness and willingness to be all she needs to be for us and our students. She holds us accountable and challenges us to follow through and be innovative in our classrooms. She welcomes change and helps us to facilitate it. She is a powerful leader who I look forward to seeing everyday. She is a leader in every sense of the world and because of what she has allowed me to do, has certainly been a Life Changer and is worthy of all reward.

Becky Huzar Posted over a year ago

As a teacher who was fortunate enough to work with Michele at Newark High School and Shue-Medill Middle School, I can say she was one of the greatest administrators I worked with in 36 years. I just knew that when she was transferred to Shue-Medill, she was sent there to save the students, staff and school. She did just that. She is a phenomenal administrator, educator and person. I am so grateful I was able to be part of her team.

Jeff Frampton Posted over a year ago

Michele continually goes beyond the role of being an administrator. She is a motivator, cheerleader, sounding board, teacher advocate, student advocate, and so much more. Michele does not take her position as being an administrator as a "job", but as a calling. She is always looking at how she can help her students and staff to be better and how she can make that happen at Shue-Medill. I have worked for 18 years in the Christina School District and am a graduate of it and I have never seen anyone like Michele. She will do anything for her students and staff. While she looks at enhancing programs and projects that we already have, she is also looking for a new idea to try and she is always open to ideas from staff. Michele gives the staff a "voice" in what goes on here at Shue-Medill which gains more buy in from staff. She has done the same with our students through the creation of the Student School Improvement Team. These students, who volunteered to be on the team, come up with different ideas and present them to Michele. This allows the students to have a say and a "voice" in what goes on here at Shue-Medill as well. Michele will also do anything to gain student buy in from dying her hair, having individual dance offs with the students, getting buckets of slime poured over her head and so much more. The students know who she is, know that she is approachable, and respect her as does the staff for the same reasons. For these reasons and many more, I feel that Mrs. Michele Savage is justified and deserving of this award and recognition. I cannot think of a better person who exemplifies what a "life changer" is than Michele.

erin baugher Posted over a year ago

It has been an honor and privilege to work with Michele. She is an exceptional administrator and leader in her school. In all my years working in and with schools, Michele stands out for her commitment to her school, staff, students, and community.

Casey Montigney Posted over a year ago

Michele can be summed up in this sentence: she will continually fight for her school, her teachers, her students, and their parents, regardless of the time, energy, or resistance that it takes. She is a leader in every sense of the word because she leads by example and creates new leaders by allowing others’ ideas to be just as important if not more important than her own. She has transformed Shue into a school where people want to be, and powerful learning happens here because of that fact. There’s a reason why teachers never want to leave once they work here, and there’s a reason why students want school breaks to end so they can come “home.” She is a LifeChanger for anyone with whom she comes into contact, and this is why she deserves this award!