SHS principal goes on mission for education

SHS principal goes on mission for education

SMITHFIELD – This week brought a change of pace for Smithfield High School Principal Dan Kelley, who traveled to Rio Grande in the Dominican Republic as part of a volunteer effort to build a community center and cafeteria.

After 11 years at SHS, Kelley began his year-long leave of absence last summer, dedicating his time to his position as president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

This year, he said, is about taking advantage of every opportunity he can.

Flying out Monday, Jan. 15, and returning Jan. 23, Kelley said he’s traveled with NASSP, but has never done a mission before.

“I’m looking forward to working with the kids and the community,” he said. “I’m really curious to see how they educate the kids.”

Lifetouch, the school picture day photography company, began building a K-8 school in the town of Rio Grande in 2011, and returned five times in six years to complete the two-story educational facility.

Part of a team of 46 volunteers, including 29 educators, working with Lifetouch Memory Missions, Kelley said most of the work includes moving concrete blocks and meeting with the people of Rio Grande.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about giving back,” Kelley said as he ran errands last Friday in preparation for the trip.

On the top of his list of things to buy was work pants. He said he received advice from Coventry High School Principal Michael Hobin, who participated in a Lifetouch Mission in the past. Hobin said to bring as much clothes as he could, because Kelley would want to donate everything possible.

In addition to his wardrobe, Kelley collected donations from Shane Moore of the Smithfield Little League, gathering used gloves and mitts, other gear and baseballs.

“Hopefully we can get a game going down there,” he said.

Though he plans to play some, he said he plans to focus on his work as an educator too.

“It’s work but it’s also about relationships. I’m always curious, it’s a personal goal to get a better understanding of other cultures,” Kelley said.

Kelley plans to share his learning experience with his SHS students. He said he will run a Facebook Live video this Friday, Jan. 19, to connect Smithfield Spanish students to Rio Grande students.

“If we can get the internet to work, then the students can speak to the target country,” he said

Kelley will keep the conversations going at an administrative level as well. Through his work with NASSP he frequently is traveling around the country, speaking at conferences and talking education.

At each stop, he said he starts a dialogue with educators about what is considers best practices in each place he visits.

“We’re fighting similar battles as teachers,” he said.

He said a shortage in principals, for example, and working with buildings that are old and decrepit, are two of the biggest challenges facing top administrators.

On a positive note, he said, Smithfield and Rhode Island are in great position, particularly from a policy standpoint.

“This year off has justified to me the direction that we’re headed,” he said.