Under New Principal, Stafford Students Proclaim ‘We Are One’

‘Everybody Should … Feel Like They Belong Here’
By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 11, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Stafford Township — What a sight it would be to see hundreds of iguanas moving in the same direction. Even though each individual lizard has a unique scale pattern, all of them together would be a sea of green unlike any other.

A similar mantra was unveiled last week and celebrated at Stafford Intermediate School – home of the Iguanas, by the way – as the school opened for the new year and the fifth- and sixth-graders now under the watchful eyes of new principal Sean Reilly started taking off for wherever their passion, ingenuity and determination will take them until June.

“The climate always has been good here, but I’m of the philosophy the climate can always be better,” said Reilly, the king lizard who joined the students, staff and a bunch of Parent Teacher Organization members on Sept. 6 in tie-dying shirts printed with this year’s school motto: This is us. We are one.

“The plan for this year is for everybody to come together as one and belong to something great,” Reilly said. “We want to reach every student, have something for every student and make sure every student feels like he or she belongs here.”

At the end of each school year, the school’s “climate team” pores over various data and student surveys to develop a plan for cultivating an improved student “climate” within the building, explained counselor Kristin Ducker, one of the organizers for the opening-week activities designed to bring every student into the fold and feel like a welcomed part of a huge team of iguanas.

“For this year, we wanted to better develop peer-to-peer relationships among the students, to really build a culture of students who are mindful of and respectful toward others,” she said. “We’re all the same, but different in many ways, and that’s the purpose behind the tie-dying of their motto shirts. Each student and staff member is unique, but we’re all one.”

Sixth-graders Katie Brennan and Brayden Scherlin like the new motto.

“We’re all different in a special way,” said Brennan, whose favorite subject is science. “Everybody contributes something, and whatever that is, it’s cool. We can be one. And not pick on each other or bully others because of their differences, but instead respect those differences and be nice to each other.”

Brayden, a math lover, said he hopes to see his friends and classmates refrain from leaving out others and be more inclusive with those they don’t know as well.

“I noticed sometimes there were kids sitting by themselves and not being included in things,” he said. “I want to see less people leaving each other out. Everybody should have a good time in school, feel like they belong here and that they’re someone.”

As part of the opening-week activities, every student had to do a self-assessment of his or her positive qualities and write them down on a drawing of their personal interests or the aspects of their varying backgrounds that helped shape their individual personalities. All of those “self portraits” are hanging in the hallways throughout the school as a reminder to everybody that, while each iguana is different in many ways, they are one student body on the same path for the time being.

“We want to celebrate our differences and appreciate each other’s uniqueness,” Reilly said. “We want everybody to understand that every student brings something different but valuable to the table. In the end, we all have success together. Everybody has an important role in our school. Everybody matters.”

One way those differences will be celebrated is through quarterly addresses to the students by Reilly, who will recognize the plethora of ways the students excel, both within the school and out in the community. Of course, it will take a village to make the climate warm and welcoming for every iguana, he said.

“Our staff is fantastic and they understand the importance of our mission and the goal of reaching every child,” Reilly said. “We want the kids to be excited when they walk through the doors for the school day, because when they’re excited about being here, learning becomes more organic and easier.”



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