ELHS Welcomes New Principal, Deb Kelly, a ‘Perfect Fit’

Principal Deb Kelly confirmed for permanent position

Noelle Avena

Principal Deb Kelly gave stress balls in the shape of a heart to each teacher that can be seen around the school which say “Happy Coronaversary” on March 13 to show her appreciation for their hard work. She has also handwritten notes and had them delivered to each faculty member. Small yet heartfelt actions like this are what makes assistant principal Henry Kydd call her the “perfect fit” for the permanent principal position at ELHS.

She is characterized by her coworkers as a hard worker and kind-hearted leader, and they are quick to sing her praises. “Ms. Kelly is non-stop,” Mr. Kydd said. “She’s always focused on doing whatever she can to help other people.” Mr. Kydd also believes that when teachers talk to her, they know that they can approach her easily, share their concerns, and have them taken seriously. From her experience in the counseling office and as an assistant principal, totaling 20 years at ELHS, Ms. Kelly is right at home with the fast-paced unpredictability of ELHS.

“Her background as a counselor really helped her do this job in a different way. She’s a very compassionate and empathetic person. She’ll greet people and ask how they’re doing, and she’ll stop and wait to hear how you are,” administrative assistant Tiffany Hunt said.

Ms. Kelly’s responsibility is to be flexible and respond to whatever comes up around the school on a day-to-day basis, but her goal is to spend as much time with students as possible. Students can often say hello to her at lunches, in classrooms, by busses, or in hallways.

Ms. Kelly also has a legacy as only the second female principal at ELHS. “I hope that I serve as a positive role model for any young women who are thinking about going into any kind of leadership. It’s a little sad, in my opinion, that in 50 years I’m only the second [female principal]. Although high school principals have traditionally been men, I think that’s changing. Not just here, but overall.”

In her first year, the administration has outlined plans for the next changes coming to ELHS. Ms. Kelly is in the process of working with teachers to ensure classrooms will be places for all kinds of learning, not just academics. This will be implemented to better suit the well-rounded vision of the graduate the school hopes to create. Under that umbrella of change is social-emotional learning and equity and inclusion. Short lessons and changes to how classes and advisory are taught will weave these themes through a student’s high school experience to give them a more full education.

“I think she’s very appreciative of everything everyone in the school does, from teachers to custodians to the cafeteria people to the admin assistants. One thing I like about working with her is she instills in you to learn new things. She’s always coming up with new ideas, like how to use technology,” Ms. Hunt said. “This year was unique, and it needed someone like her to handle all of the stuff that we’ve had to do differently here in school, from the lunch waves to social distancing.”

Ms. Kelly’s goal for the senior class spring is to make the experience as traditional as possible. Senior awards night, graduation, and prom will happen, but the forms they will take are still in development. Much of that planning relies on what the state restrictions on gatherings are by that time. Curriculum Instructional Leaders (CILs), or department leaders, are involved in much of this decision-making at ELHS. Decision- making often goes beyond the leadership team to special committees, which involve teachers, or even students when their perspective is needed. Ms. Kelly trusts in the knowledge that ELHS has great students and teachers working hard beside her. English department CIL, Ryan Ainscough, has worked with Ms. Kelly through her time in guidance, head of guidance, and as an assistant principal. “There’s no one I’d rather have leading the school through this crazy year,” Mr. Ainscough said.

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