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."