COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Shelly McBride, who was previously the principal at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, officially began July 1 as superintendent of White Pigeon Community Schools.

New White Pigeon superintendent looks forward to leading hometown school district

WHITE PIGEON — Shelly McBride is a familiar face in White Pigeon’s school community.

A graduate of White Pigeon High School, McBride was the principal of Central Elementary School in the village for 13 years after teaching in Centreville for seven years prior. Now, McBride is staying with her hometown local school district in a different capacity.

On July 1, McBride became the newest person to lead White Pigeon Community Schools when she began her tenure as the district’s superintendent. She is the fifth new superintendent in St. Joseph County for this school year, following leadership changes in Three Rivers, Centreville, Colon, and Constantine.

“I'm excited for the opportunities we have here. White Pigeon's in a really good place right now, so it's a great opportunity for new leadership to come in,” McBride said. “I'm excited to move the district forward and being able to serve the school in this capacity.”

Her family has been heavily involved in the district over the years. Her father, Pat West, was a history teacher, coach and principal for 30 years, and currently, her daughters Ellie and Jayley are a sophomore and senior respectively at White Pigeon High School. Because of those ties to the White Pigeon community, McBride said she wanted to pursue the job.

“I really believe in giving back to the community that has given so much to me and my family, who helped to raise me,” McBride said. “I'm a very loyal person, so the thought of leaving White Pigeon has not really been in the cards for me, so to continue to challenge myself, this is the next step for me.”

McBride was the lone applicant for the superintendent position, WPCS Board of Education President Nicole Sigler said. She also referenced McBride’s community ties as something that appealed to the board during the selection process.

“She's been in our community, she was born and raised in White Pigeon, she's been a principal for 12, 13 years. She knows the staff, she knows the community, she knows everybody,” Sigler said.

One of the biggest things McBride is looking to focus on as superintendent is students’ physical and social-emotional safety. To the physical aspect, the school district recently got approval to put a deputy from the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department in the district’s schools as a school resource officer for the next five years. McBride said students “need to feel safe,” and that the school resource officer was a good way to do so.

As for the social-emotional aspect, McBride said the district is planning on a wider implementation of the TRAILS program, an evidence-based mental health service program for schools, in all grades.

“We already do that in the secondary level, but we want to expand on that K-12 as well as the programs and different tiers,” McBride said. “We're very excited about it, and we're getting a lot of support from the ISD with that.”

Another area of importance for McBride is building on the community support the district currently receives. One way she said she hopes to do so is host community forums and discussions to help revamp the district’s strategic plan within the next year.

“Post-COVID, things have shifted a little. We've learned a lot about our capabilities, we've done things we never thought we could do, we were forced to do things we never thought would be able to do or have to do, so I think it's important to get a real good pulse on our community with that,” McBride said.

In terms of what she wants to improve on with the district, McBride said maintaining and growing the district’s student population is key.

“We have fared well in recent years without losing students, however I would like to shift that into gaining more students, and not just keeping the ones we have. I want to develop programs and create an atmosphere where people want to come and choose to come here,” McBride said, adding that it can be tough because of the small community White Pigeon is, but also a benefit to some.

“The offerings we can offer our students might be fewer, but our students are known by their teachers, they definitely can have more small atmospheres,” McBride said. “With that said, we can partner with larger districts, and definitely with the community, to offer more programming for our students.”

One example of programming McBride mentioned being a possibility is a Boys and Girls Club-style before and after-school program for their students, something they hope to get up and running in the next year.

In the near-term, however, McBride said she is looking forward to the district’s sinking fund renewal vote coming up in the Aug. 2 primary election. The sinking fund is currently a 3-mill tax levy, which would not change if voters approve of the renewal. The money would be used for a number of capital projects, including roofing upgrades, ADA accessibility and LED lighting upgrades at both the elementary school and middle school/high school. The sinking fund was first approved back in 2017.

“This is a renewal, so this will be no new money. It's three mills, one of the absolute lowest in the area, and we're going to continue the site improvements that we've done in the past couple of years,” McBride said.

Overall, McBride said she is looking forward to seeing where White Pigeon can go under her leadership.

“I'm looking forward to seeing this district continue to blossom and be a district of choice for people,” McBride said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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