Stories & Grievances
Dr. Mel Riddile Wins the Met Life/NASSP 2006 NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL OF THE YEAR Award
But there is a problem. He is the former national executive director of Straight, Inc. and during the early 1980s Dr. Riddile was the director of the Straight camp in Springfield, Virginia (in Fairfax County). For 17 years, Straight, Inc. was one of the most destructive juvenile rehabilitation programs in the world. We need to look at the award and insurance industries in this country. Betsy Combier
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2005
Contact: Michael Carr, NASSP
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA PRINCIPAL NAMED NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL OF THE YEAR
WASHINGTON, D.C. Dr. Mel J. Riddile, principal of JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia, today was named the 2006 MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year.
Riddile received the award for demonstrating excellence in resolving complex problems, involving the local community in the school, and his consistent success in improving JEB Stuart High School's overall learning environment. Riddile will receive $5,000 as part of his award.
"Mel Riddile looked critically at the needs of his school and determined that an innovative school-wide reading initiative was needed to improve over-all student achievement, raise SOL and SAT scores, and encourage more students, particularly minority students, to take more challenging, upper level courses. Successful implementation of such a program requires a school leader who fully understands the importance of involving staff, students, parents, and the community in any effort to improve the school environment," stated Dr. Gerald N. Tirozzi, executive director, NASSP. "With his boundless energy, data-driven, results-oriented decision making, exceptional ability to communicate, and his insatiable quest to increase student success, it is easy to see why Mel Riddile is a shining example of a professional who exemplifies the qualities of a dynamic educational leader."
"We applaud the efforts of Mel Riddile -- a perfect example of how the strategic planning and hard work of a school principal can make a significant, positive impact on today's students and America's future," said Michael K. Farrell, senior vice president, MetLife and head of MetLife Resources.
"Dr. Riddile sees his role as a personal advocate for each student in his care and believes strongly that all students can meet the highest of academic standards," said Jack D. Dale, Superintendent of Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools. "He possesses the rare combination of outstanding leadership skills, professional versatility, a strong sense of responsibility, and practical wisdom."
Arriving at JEB Stuart High School in 1997, Riddile has tirelessly worked with teachers and staff members to establish a school-wide sense of responsibility, trust, pride, and high achievement. His school improvement efforts have centered on proven best practices such as professional learning communities, personalization, and a rigorous curriculum.
One of his most significant achievements was the introduction of an International Baccalaureate (IB) program into the curriculum and JEB Stuart's subsequent earning of the 2004 IB Inspiration Award. Riddle's successful implementation of a school-wide reading initiative paid significant dividends in its first year even while facing the challenge of a school population that is two-thirds second language learners. The number of students reading above the 40th percentile doubled (26% to 52%) while the number of students reading below the 5th percentile decreased by 81%. As of the Spring of 2004, the results of the school-wide reading assessment continued to be impressive with 94% of the students passing the Reading and Writing SOLs on the first administration.
JEB Stuart's award-winning reading program has become a national model that will be featured in a new publication entitled, Creating a Culture of Literacy: A Guide for Middle and High School Principals, that will be disseminated this Fall (courtesy of the Carnegie and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations) to every public and private middle-level and high school in the nation. In addition, JEB Stuart High School has also been named a Breakthrough High School by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and NASSP. The schools recognized by this program are high poverty, high minority schools with high graduation, and high college acceptance rates. For further information, please visit www.principals.org/breakthrough.
Riddile has been serving as the 2005 Virginia State High School Principal of the Year. He was one of three finalists selected from candidates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA).
***Photos and bios of the National and State Principals of the Year for 2005-2006 can be seen at www.principals.org/06finalists.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals - the preeminent organization and the national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals and aspiring school leaders - provides its members the professional resources to serve as visionary leaders. NASSP promotes the intellectual growth, academic achievement, character development, leadership development, and physical well-being of youth through its programs and student leadership services. NASSP sponsors the National Honor Society", the National Junior Honor Society", and the National Association of Student Councils".
MetLife Resources, a division of MetLife (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company), provides retirement plans and other financial services to healthcare, education, and not-for-profit organizations. MetLife, a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET) is a leading provider of insurance and other financial services to millions of individual and institutional customers throughout the United States. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. offers life insurance, annuities, automobile and homeowner's insurance and retail banking services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement and savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. Outside the U.S., the MetLife companies have direct insurance operations in Asia Pacific, Latin America and Europe. For more information, please visit www.metlife.com.
Honors for a Principal Whose Impact Extends Even to the Cafeteria
Head of Fairfax School Wins National Award
By Jay Mathews, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 23, 2005; C03
Late one morning, Principal Mel Riddile was standing in the cafeteria in J.E.B. Stuart High School and looking proudly at a scene quite unlike what is typical for American high schoolers at lunch.
About 600 students were sitting close together and chattering happily -- nothing unusual about that. The surprise was that there did not seem to be even a scrap of trash or leftover sandwich on any of the tables, at a school where food fights used to be common. Several hundred more students were about to descend on the cafeteria for the second lunch period, and Riddile and his staff at the Fairfax County school had trained students and janitors to get the garbage out of the way before they arrived.
There are several reasons the National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife have named the tall, muscular Riddile, a 55-year-old former linebacker at the University of North Carolina, the national high school principal of the year. Test scores at Stuart have gone up. College-level courses are abundant. Absenteeism has been sharply reduced.
But Riddile's admirers say the clean and mischief-free lunch period, the result of persistent reminders and a new system for wheeling trash barrels past the tables, is one of the more visible symbols of his ingenuity, energy and commitment to teamwork. The experts say he has turned Stuart into one of the highest-performing and best-functioning high schools in the country, the academic results particularly impressive because 54 percent of Stuart students come from low-income homes.
When Riddile arrived in 1997, the typical Stuart student was absent nearly 23 days every year, but that number is now down to six. He discovered in his first year that 76 percent of his students were at least two years below grade level in reading; today, almost none of the students who have been at the school at least two years score that low. About 40 percent of students are enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program.
Daniel A. Domenech, a senior vice president of McGraw-Hill Education, was superintendent of Fairfax County schools during most of Riddile's time at Stuart. He said the principal "has been able to demonstrate that a multiethnic student population with high percentages of English language learners and students from low socioeconomic background can achieve when placed in an environment where diversity is celebrated and students are given every opportunity to learn."
The school has 1,450 students in grades 9 through 12. Ethnically, the student body is about 31 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 13 percent African American and 24 percent Asian and "other," including many students from the Middle East and North Africa. In five years, its average SAT score has increased 104 points, from 951 to 1055, according to a report from the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Kathleen McBride, president of Stuart's Parent Teacher Student Association, said Riddile collected reams of data on each problem he faced and then encouraged different and sometimes daring solutions from a staff that came to realize he was going to listen to them and back up their efforts.
The auto-dialing program that had been used to inform parents about school events was turned into a wake-up call system for students who were persistently absent or tardy. Each morning at 6 o'clock, the telephone rings in the homes of those students and a recorded voice says: "Good morning. This is Stuart High School. Breakfast starts at 7:05, and school begins at 7:20."
Some central office administrators balked when Riddile insisted on testing the reading abilities of all his incoming ninth-graders, but the appalling results were necessary to persuade everyone that all students who were below grade level had to take a reading course their freshman year. Different methods were used for different students, including mandatory after-school tutoring, with sports and other after-school activities beginning after the tutoring was done.
The emphasis, experts who have studied the school say, has been on finding new ways to solve problems and having the patience to stick with them while teachers and students adjust to the changes. An analysis of the Stuart literacy program on the National Association of Secondary School Principals' Web site acknowledged that Riddile's strong focus on reading did not immediately catch fire.
"The greatest resistance was among the teaching staff," the Principals.org account says. "First, teachers could not understand how they could cover course content and teach literacy strategies. Second, the teachers had no training in teaching literacy strategies. However, the data became key to convincing the staff that there was a need to make a dramatic change from the traditional way of teaching to a more explicit form of teaching to meet the learning needs of students."
Riddile found a job coaching and teaching social studies at Lee High School in Fairfax County right out of college, and he was recruited to be an administrator three years later. He worked at three county high schools and was a substance-abuse prevention coordinator at school headquarters before becoming principal at Stuart. His wife, Marianne, recently retired as a county teacher, and their children, Meredith and Mike, both graduated from Robinson Secondary School before going to the University of Florida.
At the beginning of his career as an administrator, Riddile said, he thought he would miss the daily contact with students in the classroom. But he grew to love the fact that he was now responsible for helping solve the most difficult problems in the school. "When you are an administrator, you are dealing with the kids who need you most," he said.
What other educators say they have noticed about Riddile is his unerring, and sometimes astonishing, focus on student achievement. "One day I was told he was on the roof of the school, fixing the air-conditioning system," said Paul Regnier, the Fairfax County schools spokesman. "When I asked him about it, he said that they could not get a technician to the school until the next day but that he had done so much to get extra instructional time for students that he was not about to let kids be unable to learn algebra for two hours because it was too hot to learn.
"Behind everything is Mel's strong and practical belief that education is the key to a better life," Regnier said, "and he is proving every day that it is true for people all over the world who come to this country looking for that life."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Mel Riddile, Straight's former national clinical director, protested at awards ceremony
We have received word that on June 22, 2005 Melvin Riddile, Ph.D., the principal of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia was presented an award in Williamsburg, Virginia for being the best principal in Virginia. But the ceremony was protested by a handful of Straight survivors. Dr. Riddile is the former national executive director of Straight, Inc. and during the early 1980s Dr. Riddile was the director of the Straight camp in Springfield, Virginia (in Fairfax County). For 17 years Straight, Inc. was one of the most destructive juvenile rehabilitation programs in the world. Straight stopped treating kids for addictions in 1993 and today is an internationally recognized think tank on American and international drug policy. Today it calls itself Drug Free America Foundation and its founder (who is the former chairman of the finance committee for the national GOP) Melvin Sembler is our Ambassador to Italy. While DFAF no longer treats kids for addictions, Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati, Ohio does. Kids Helping Kids was founded in part by Dr. George Ross who, like Dr. Riddile, has a Ph.D. in Education. Dr. Ross is Straight's former national education director. A few months after Straight had opened in Virginia, back when Mel Riddile was director of the Virginia program, a young Straight escapee named Fred Collins was awarded $220,000 by a jury in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia for being falsely imprisoned by Straight. Virginia authorities did not prosecute Dr. Riddile or anyone else for their roles at Straight, but state authorities in Kentucky tried to prosecute Dr. Ross for his alleged role of violating civil liberties at Possibilities Unlimited--another Straight-like program he founded in Lexington, Kentucky. Straight-Cincinnati voluntarily closed in Ohio after state criminal authorities took it to court on multiple criminal counts. Today Kids Helping Kids continues to operate out of the old Straight facility. Recently some Straight survivors urged Dr. Riddile to speak out against Kids Helping Kids. They allege he personally knows "people who were involved with KHK." When Dr. Riddile refused to speak out against Kids, the Straight survivors passed out the following flier at the awards ceremony for Dr. Riddile.
Dr. Riddile receives award prompting Leigh Bright and Wes Fager to write letters of protest
References:a. MetLife/NASSP PR on Dr. Mel Riddile b. Wash Post on Dr. Mel Riddile Recently Dr. Mel Riddile, former national executive director of Straight, was named top high school principal in America by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. This prompted Wes Fager, editor of theStraights dot com, to send the following eMail to Michael Carr of NASSP:_____________________Dear Michael Carr, NASSP I was dissapointed to learn that Dr. Riddile has been selected by your organization as National High School Principal of the Year. Dr. Riddile is the former director of Straight-Springfield, Virginia and the former national director of Straight, Inc. For 17 years Straight, Inc. was the biggest juvenile drug rehabilitation program in the world (though Dr. Riddile was not with the program all that time). But Straight was also one of the most destructive rehab programs the world has ever seen. It operated on deceit, fear, intimidation, and untested methods brainwashing. Mental and physical abuse were rampant. Eventually this national-level program had to close all its treatment camps under mounting civil suits and investigations from state criminal and child welfare agencies. And while Dr. Riddile is being recognized today for his current work and receiving a $5,000 check, I think it is important to note that over 40 of Straight's former clients have committed suicide. Wesley Fagered, http://www.thestraights.com
Alleged abuses at Straight - Fairfax
The Straights and RICO
Overview of Abuses at Straight
Straight and Medical Research
Drug Program Having Problems
The Straights.com: rehabilitation, thought reform, $95 million and the destruction of young spirits.
Legal Page; Slapp Suit; Malicious Prosecution
In Lake Worth's Growing Together, kids don't kick drugs. They're beaten and humiliated.
Letters to the Editor
Straight, Inc.: The Drug War The Drug War Concentration Camps of the 1980s
The Republican Party and the Great Northen Virginia juvenile suicide epidemic of the 80s
Mel and Betty Sembler, Always the Good Republicans
Freedom of Mind Center
We shall tolerate no treatment program where children can not talk, in private, with their parents. : Fornits' Home for Wayward Web Forum Index - Straight, Inc. Veterans
Drug Free America Foundation Formerly Known as Straight, Inc. See change of name form.
Teen Boot Camps: Behavior Modification or Torture Centers?
Drug Rehab News