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Michael Pullig is out to instill pride at Mount Pleasant High.

That's a double-entendre -- a goal and an acronym which stands for 'performance, respect, integrity, determination and excellence'.

While motivational slogans and programs built around them are common in educational and other organizational settings, Pullig said his intention is to go much deeper and create what amounts to a new culture at one of the oldest schools in the state. Mount Pleasant traces its heritage back 176 years to the beginnings of public education in Delaware.

Pullig, whose career at the school began as a substitute teacher and was named acting principal this year,

Perform – As a student I recognize that I should take all efforts to perform up to and beyond my potential.

Respect – I understand that I need to respect my fellow students as well as the adults and staff in the school & community building – “Mr., Ms., Mrs.”.

Integrity – Throughout the situations I find myself in high school, I know that I need to act appropriately, not allowing profanity or poor actions reflect upon who I am.

Determination – I know that my education is the key to my future.  No one can take that away from me, I have to be present and on time to acquire what I need.

Excellence – In all activities in which I participate in and outside of the classroom, I am afforded with opportunities to demonstrate my ability.

Michael Pullig The pledge that Mount Pleasant students take.

said that's not so much image-building but a means to deliver quality education to the nearly 1,000 students. "It's all about students' needs. It isn't an issue of image," he said.

[The 'acting' is in Pullig's title because the Brandywine School District was awaiting the arrival of a new superintendent when the appointment was made.]

Still, he acknowledges that a sort of back-handed congratulations he received when his appointment was announced provided some of the inspiration to launch the effort. The comment implied a belief that Mount Pleasant is not a comfortable place to be. That, Pullig said, is anything but true, but the misperception is more widely shared than he'd like it to be.

"Like any school we have challenges we have to work through," he said. "But those challenges are certainly not insurmountable."

Before the academic year began, Pullig presented the faculty and staff. Their obligations, he said, is straightforward: "Teach every student as if they were your own [children]."

Students were brought aboard by signing 'pride cards', a sort of pledge to measure up to the program standards. "It was a way to get their attention right away," Pullig said.

Next step will be to call a meeting of about 25 to 35 students who are identified as influential among their peers as a way "to make them feel connected." That, he explains, is not like student government but a one-on-one approach that is expected to spread through the entire enrollment.

In addition to encouraging parental involvement, he also intends to provide opportunities for area business people and residents of the community around the school to see for themselves what the school is like.

So far, he said, there are early indications new attitudes are taking hold.

Disciplinary incidents during the first month of the academic year are significantly below the same period a year ago, he said. "We've seen a difference. ... The most serious [violation] we've had was a girl using profanity to an administrator."

On the other side of the ledger, faculty and staff members are citing students "caught doing something right," he adds. The most notable incident in that regard involved a boy who discovered a vending machine unlocked and reported it rather than helping himself to some of the contents.

Posted on October 3,  2006

© 2006. All rights reserved.

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