For Kathy Riddle, Shelton High School is a second home.

A Shelton resident, born and bred, Riddle remembers before she was even in kindergarten, coming to the school with her father, a teacher at the time, and spending hours drawing on the chalkboards. And when her father was SHS athletic director, cheering on the orange and black at sporting events.

“These halls were my playground,” said Riddle. “I literally grew up in this school. This is home to me.”

Riddle, who has spent 27 years with the district including the past nine years as its curriculum leader of guidance, is running her old stomping grounds, having taken over as high school principal on Monday, July 22, on an interim basis for the coming school year.

“For the past few years, I have been comfortable in my role,” said Riddle. “I was not looking for another position, but this is a great opportunity. It is an exciting time for me and for the school. It is an honor to be asked to fill this position. I look forward to working with staff, our students and their families in a collegial, productive manner. Next year will be a positive year.”

The school has been under the shadow of a police investigation since March, with former Principal Beth Smith and Assistant Principal John Skerritt placed on paid administrative leave (see separate page one article). But Riddle said the positive reception she has received from staff and parents demonstrates that the community is ready to move forward.

“I do not look back,” said Riddle, “I only look forward.”

Riddle currently serves as the school district’s curriculum leader of guidance. She attended Shelton schools, graduating from Shelton High in 1987, when she served as class president, and has two children — Finn, who is entering seventh grade at Shelton Intermediate School, and Murphy, who is going into fifth grade at Perry Hill School.

“I am pleased to appoint Kathy Riddle as the interim (high school) principal,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, adding that Riddle will serve through June 30, 2020. “She is highly qualified, and well-respected. She knows our students, and she knows our staff well.”

“Kathy Riddle is an outstanding educator,” added Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden. “She is well-suited for this important position.”

While her first official day was Monday, Riddle has hit the ground running, already moving to alter students’ daily schedule to better accommodate homeroom and advisory periods in the regular routine. She is also focusing on increasing the opportunities for clubs and other activities, with an eye toward getting more students involved in the school community.

“I want to make sure everyone feels that this is home, and that people here support them,” said Riddle, who is also involved in the interview process to fill the two assistant principal positions, which should be completed in three weeks.

Riddle said once her leadership team is in place, work can begin on enhancing programming for the students.

“This is so important to me,” said Riddle. “I am so fortunate to have been in a position I truly love and did a great job at it. Now I am bringing that same excitement to this new opportunity.”

Riddle began her career as a teacher at Shelton High. From there, she became a guidance counselor, a position she held for some 12 years before becoming the district’s director of counselor services. In that role, Riddle said she developed a “true K-12 curriculum for school counseling” that incorporated social and emotional learning.

From there, Riddle said she helped develop student success plans for grades 5 to 12 and Naviance for students in grades 6 to 12. The programs are in place to help enhance college and career pathways, and the schools’ course work is in line with that philosophy.

“The goal is to prepare these kids for the future,” said Riddle.

Both of Riddle’s parents were teachers at Shelton High, and her father not only served as SHS athletic director but also the district’s finance director — and she is first to say she bleeds orange and black.

“We have a wonderful community here,” said Riddle. “I love the people. This community allows kids to grow in a safe environment with so many opportunities with sports and other activities. Here in Shelton, the community rallies around each other when something happens … and I love that feel. People really know each other here.

“My job now at Shelton High is to build off what we have, which is so strong,” added Riddle. “I know there is a business aspect to this job, but I want to approach this more from the human aspect. It’s a 24-7 job, and I am ready to get down to work. I’ve been around Shelton for a long time, so many people already know me, but for those who do not, get to know me. I am an open-door type person.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com