Principal Kelley looks ahead to his year in Washington, D.C.

Principal Kelley looks ahead to his year in Washington, D.C.

Already invited to first inaugural ball

SMITHFIELD – When Smithfield High School Principal Daniel Kelley takes a leave of absence for the 2017-2018 school year, he’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. to advocate for public school students and leaders, as part of his role as president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, or NASSP.

Kelley’s year as president will coincide with the first year of the country’s new presidential administration. In an interview with The Valley Breeze & Observer, Kelley shared what he plans to do next year, his hopes for the next administration, and some of the biggest hurdles students face today.

When you take your leave of absence next year, what’s your first order of business?

The NASSP president plays a key role in advocating for the needs of schools to federal elected officials. Specifically, I will share stories of my principal colleagues from across the country who have led dramatic transformations in their schools. We need their lessons to spread.

Unfortunately, there is often so little support for principal development that the position turns over very quickly – so quickly, in fact, that most principals are not in place to see their school-improvement programs all the way through to the end. Schools can’t improve without an effective leader. That’s the lesson I will share with elected officials: an investment in leadership is an investment in learning.

Also, for the first time ever, NASSP and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, NAESP, are hosting the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. in July. This will be my first public appearance as president. I will be working with the leadership of both organizations to ensure a successful conference and business meetings. This is a great opportunity for both organizations to collaborate and unite in advocacy for school leaders across the country.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am excited to meet school leaders across the country. There are so many great things happening around our country in regard to education and school leadership. I hope to bring back these best practices and share them with the Smithfield leadership team and leaders across Rhode Island. I am also excited to be in Washington for the upcoming Inauguration. My wife and I will be attending our first Inaugural Ball.

Are there any challenges you expect to face?

Federal funding for education is an ongoing challenge. Even with the successes NASSP has had in getting Congress and the Department of Education to recognize the importance of school leadership to student success, the financial support does not always follow. So, much of my energy will go into encouraging public officials to channel more public funds to their public schools.

What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing education today?

Achievement gaps persist between white and minority students and between students in poverty and their more financially stable classmates. Closing these gaps, an aspiration which we simply call “equity,” is the biggest challenge facing not just education but the future of our nation.

The world is only getting more complex, and we need every bit of human potential to help us address tomorrow’s challenges. But the evidence is clear that we are wasting a lot of that potential. According to recent Gallup data, only about one in three high school students feels really engaged in their education. That’s a scary statistic. So we need a new model of education for all kids that allows them to build on their interests and empowers them to lead their own learning. NASSP has some excellent models of that leadership in its well-known programs: National Honor Society and National Association of Student Councils. We need to spread those programs and their lessons more widely.