Today marks a little over three months that I have been principal of Messalonskee High School. The students, parents, faculty and my fellow administrators have been tremendously supportive of the transition. I came to Messalonskee High School in the spring of 2001, as an established educator and coach in Western Maine. What brought me here was the opportunity of a position to teach and coach in the same district as my new bride (and college sweetheart). Interestingly enough, Messalonskee had a deeper connection for me personally, as my grandmother, Ruth Mosher, graduated from Williams High School in 1940. Fortunately, I was hired and went on to teach, coach, and become an administrator in this district I’ve come to love.
In the past few months I have learned a great deal about our school and its faculty and students. This summer, in over 70 individual meetings with MHS staff, I came to understand the great passion that our educators have for their students and for learning. From those meetings grew a vision of what our school could become, and a platform from which that vision could be achieved. The focal areas we addressed were:
Celebrate Us: We do so many amazing things at MHS, celebrate them, our accomplishments, one-another. Get the word out!
School Climate: We must do a better job of being positive, engaging students, and supporting everyone. MHS must be a place where we can take risks, experience failure, learn every day, and celebrate success.
Collaboration: We should be a professional community of learners, working together – striving to be better.
School Community: MHS must be a place where people want to come to, not go from. Eagle Pride!
Shared Leadership: With increased voice and choice comes responsibility, ownership, and respect. All stakeholders at MHS must play an active role in our school.
On the first day of school, in an assembly approaching 900, I challenged our student body to take ownership of, and leadership in, their school. I’m pleased to report that as of the writing of this piece, the students have stepped up. In the first week of school, the student body created a school-wide code of conduct for how we would conduct ourselves throughout the year. The code “EAGLES” (Excellence, Action, Goals, Leadership, Energy, Scholarship) was born. From here, our students joined with alumni, staff, and parents to work to improve homecoming. This year’s events, including the parade and bonfire, spirit week, pep-rally, and games had an enthusiasm and excitement that only comes from increased participation and school-wide pride. I am tremendously proud of all that our students, staff, and community have done to work toward our goals.
After sharing our plans to increase student leadership and engagement at MHS with school-wide assemblies, an adult in the community informed me that it wouldn’t be possible. To the contrary, our students have behaved admirably, tackling tough issues like “grinding”, graduation, and personal pride and safety in a responsible adult-like manner. I couldn’t be more pleased of what our students have done, collectively, to begin to transform their school.
As we move through the final month of the first quarter of school, I encourage all of us to embrace the potential of empowering students to become leaders. I encourage you to join me in giving them the opportunity to dare and the support to fail and learn. In the words of American author Lloyd Alexander “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”
I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have to be a part of the MHS school community. As always, I encourage you to be active in our school as a volunteer, presenter, substitute, mentor, teacher, or coach. Together we can work to better the lives of our young people and provide them with the opportunity for the very best education possible.
Jonathan D. Moody
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