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A Cinderella Story : How the East Bay Indians improved graduation rates among seniors

January 15, 2019 - Points of Pride

It’s being called the “Cinderella Story” of Hillsborough County Public Schools.

For the Indian’s at East Bay High School, it’s been a challenge trying to improve graduation rates among seniors.

But the hard work both staff and students put in has paid off with East Bay having one of the biggest jumps in graduation rates among all of our High Schools.

“Our school does struggle in academics in many areas and we’re really excited about the graduation rates because we do so much for our students,” said Principal Maria Gsell.

In order to get graduation rates up, the school needed to shift their tactics.

First, it was getting to know their clients.

Gsell encouraged the staff and administrative team to learn the names of each student in every grade level.

Then, it was putting more resources into the freshman class so teachers can learn which student needs more help.

“A few years ago, we changed how our administration works with certain grade levels each year,” said Gsell. “Our 9th grade administrator began working with those students and got them acclimated to high school and really monitors them from the beginning.”

According to teachers, monitoring students from day 1 of high school along with giving them individualized attention has motivated them to earn a diploma.

 “We put systems in place early on to see which students are at risk,” said Gsell. “So, I’m very proud of what my staff has done and I put the credit on them because they have worked tirelessly and relentlessly for our students.”

Often times, students at East Bay don’t graduate because they failed to pass their benchmark tests. So, the school has also but a focus on boot camp classes to prepare students for those exams.

For teachers, administers and especially Principal Maria Gsell, the goal was always to see students succeed. They stopped at nothing to make sure each teen had an opportunity to flourish.

“It’s just so humbling to shake those students’ hands as they walk across the stage,” she said. “Some of the students work through tremendous odds like trauma, some who are parents and to see them walk across the stage and know that we helped them is very rewarding.

It’s a team effort that encourages students like Senior Kira Webb.

“It’s like a big family and everyone is so supportive, especially in AVID, it’s a really great family,” said Webb. “My teachers are so supportive, they push us to be better.”

Both of Webb’s parents never went to college, so she felt her teachers did a great job preparing her for higher education.

“My parents didn’t know what to do or how I should apply for college, but my teachers were able to guide me and show me how to get scholarships and other things,” said Webb.

Ultimately, it took everyone on campus to come together with one focus in mind – Preparing Students for


A vision every employee at Hillsborough County Public Schools takes very seriously.

“We really have meshed well with our guidance department and our administrative team,” said Gsell. “I’m just really proud of those kids that have worked so hard to set an expectation for upcoming classes to reach our 90 by 20 goal.”

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