Smithfield High’s Principal Kelley returns after national school tour

Smithfield High’s Principal Kelley returns after national school tour

SMITHFIELD – While students entered Smithfield High School for the first time since the spring last week, another familiar face was walking back into the building after a year-long hiatus.

Principal Daniel Kelley returned to SHS after serving as president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals during the 2017-2018 school year. After spending 145 days on the road traveling across the country last year, Kelley said it felt good to be home and back in school.

Kelley, the SHS principal for 13 years, said he learned new teaching techniques while visiting schools nationwide and is excited to implement them the high school.

The chance to visit schools across the U.S., and traveling to the Dominican Republic to build a community center and experience that country’s culture, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Kelley said.

“There are a lot of small, little things that we can do to impact our culture here,” Kelley said.

He said he’d like to start the school year with the theme, “Be Great.” Great is an acronym for grateful, relationships, enthusiasm, authentic, teachable. Kelley said he would like to start spreading the slogan through the hallways and put up inspiring, supportive words to build up students’ esteem.

Though he suspects the staff may fear that he’s going to come back and change things, he said it’s not like that at all. Instead, the top item on his list is to spend more time and energy highlighting all the positive successes the school and students achieve each day.

“We don’t do a good enough job celebrating the positives that happen here. The little successes don’t get out enough,” Kelley said.

He said he will put an added focus on having a strong presence on social media and getting positive school news out into the community.

Kelley’s second focus will be on building and maintaining relationships between faculty, staff and students.

“It’s one of our strengths here at Smithfield High. I’m so proud of the relationships here, you can tell the teachers really care about each other and the kids,” he said.

Walking through the halls of some schools across the country, he said he could feel friction and disconnect, and it made him prideful of SHS’s culture. Kelley said seeing other schools gave him concern over the status of Rhode Island school buildings.

“Facilities across the state are designed for a different era of learning,” he said. “We’re going to have to start investing in our buildings. I understand times are tough, people don’t want to see taxes go up. But, we’re doing these kids a disservice.”

He said Smithfield should vote on the elementary school reconfiguration project to continue forward progress and to prevent students leaving the district for new facilities.

While Kelley said he is proud of the four new career and technical education pathways added this year, he said he is worried the model is not sustainable.

“I don’t want to open it up to hundreds of kids every year. I don’t want to lose our small community size, but still offer great opportunities for kids,” he said.

He said he’d like pathways to be open to a variety of subjects and have several outcomes to prevent “pigeonholing” students at a young age. Keeping classes small and offering great programs are essential, he said.

“You can only do so many things well,” he said.

He admitted his trip wasn’t all work. Kelley said he jumped out of a plane, met three Olympic athletes, and ate dinner in the Benjamin Franklin room in the White House.

Listening to Justice Neil Gorsuch speak in the U.S. Supreme Court with 110 students, asking intelligent questions and getting thoughtful answers, was “really awesome,” he said.

Kelley said he’s happy to be back and expects 2018-2019 to be a great school year.