After over 20 years in education, Cliff Kelly says he will now be a student of the Rio Americano community so that he can succeed as the school’s new principal.
“I think a big piece for me is just trying to learn the community,” he said. “I want to become as familiar as I can as quickly as I can with that.”
Growing up in Napa, Kelly came to Sacramento over 25 years ago to study at Sac State where he graduated majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. This inspired him to take on his first job as a counselor.
He started his career as a counselor for three years and spent the following three years working at an alternate educational site with students from grades 7-12 in the mornings and teaching GED and California proficiency exams in the afternoons.
He then progressed to teach English at Grant High School for 10 years and spent the next three years as a school coordinator for Highlands High School. Currently, he is a Vice Principal at Casa Robles High School.
When he heard that Principal Brian Ginter would be leaving to take a new job as a program director for the district after 12 years at Rio, he decided to take a shot at the job.
“I know there’s great programs and I also have heard a lot of positive things about the school culture for both the students and the community,” Kelly said.
Progressing from a teacher to work in administration has helped Kelly to achieve his main goal of bettering his community.
“I was drawn to admin to improve the school I was working at, so I felt the best way to do that was admin,” Kelly said. “I feel you have the opportunity to impact the larger community and system that the school exists in because you can work on the whole group rather than just the students you are teaching.”
Kelly’s main goal next year is to learn and understand his community–the staff, students, and parents all involved with the school. Because he believes every school has a culture, learning and adapting to it is the most important aspect of his job.
Kelly also hopes to focus on supporting students and creating programs to make them as successful as possible. He wants to become known as someone the school can trust and rely on.
“I want to do everything I can to support the Rio community: in classrooms, hallways, before and after school, going to events when I can, and networking with the community as much as possible so people get a feel for who I am and know what I’m about on campus.”
Transitioning into the school in the midst of a pandemic could prove to be difficult, but he has a plan that has worked for him this school year that he hopes to carry over to Rio. Aside from supporting families with technology and the internet, he believes communication is most vital.
“What I’ve found this year is the importance of phone calls, communication, and the importance of just trying to do everything you can to find out what the specific needs of the student and the family is and putting some supports in place,” Kelly said.
Whatever the upcoming year will look like for the school, Kelly’s main focus will be ensuring the safety of campus that will allow students and staff to be successful.
For the next school year and the many that follow, he said he hopes to create an environment that allows students to grow and prosper while connecting with the community as much as he can.
“(My goal is) ensuring that it’s a safe environment and an inclusive environment for everyone so that everyone feels like Rio is a place for them and a place that supports them in whatever their interests may be,” Kelly said.