Dan Kelley, principal at Smithfield High School in Rhode Island, is a former Rhode Island Principal of the Year and the new NASSP president. In this month’s questionnaire, we asked about his educational philosophy, his main goal for NASSP in the coming year, and his favorite sports team.

What’s your educational philosophy?

Today’s schools are a cumulative result of centuries of extremely limited thinking about the nature of learners and learning. I must challenge current educational practices such as our use of time, our educational delivery system, high-stakes testing, and grading and assessment. To address these challenges in our schools, we must have leaders who have the ability to communicate a vision; develop relationships; communicate with the community; and facilitate difficult conversations about teaching, learning, and assessment.

What’s your goal for NASSP in the coming year?

My main goal is to support principals through advocacy, especially with our leaders in Washington, D.C.

What’s the most important way a principal can make a difference in the educational process?

To be innovative and willing to challenge our current educational practices. Have the difficult conversations with your staff.

What’s the biggest challenge facing principals today?

Finding balance between work and family. The principalship can be a 24/7 job at times. Finding a work-life balance is key to staying healthy (and married).

What’s your motto?

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

What are your hobbies?

I love to hunt, fish, and work out.

What is your favorite book and why?

Early in my career, I was an elementary and middle school teacher. I am a big fan of children’s literature. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Tuck Everlasting were two of my favorites. Educationally, I enjoy the works of Fullan, Marzano, and Whitaker.

What is your favorite sports team and why?

I grew up in the Midwest, so I’m a big fan of Ohio State football. I also cheer on the Providence Friars in college basketball.

Who is your favorite movie star and why?

I do not really have a favorite movie star. I am a big fan of “Star Wars.” My all-time favorite movie is “Tombstone.” It has a great cast!

What’s your favorite sport?

I played rugby at Bowling Green State University. Rugby offered me an opportunity to meet some great people around the globe.

What’s the secret to creating a high-performing school?

The secret is in the hiring process. Recruit and hire innovative teachers who have a growth mindset.