Danville principal selected for elite group

Kelly inducted into Kentucky Women in Education Leadership 2021 cohort

Robin Kelly, principal at Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School in the Danville Independent Schools district, is one of 24 educators across Kentucky selected for the 2021 cohort of Kentucky Women in Education Leadership by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

“I do feel like there are some really high-quality ladies a part of this group, and I’m really just humbled,” Kelly said.

Kelly has been a principal, whether an assistant or head principal, for the past 18 years. She was principal of Jennie Rogers Elementary School when it closed its doors in 2018 and was one of the leaders overseeing the integration of students and staff from that school into Mary G. Hogsett Primary School and Toliver. She became principal of Toliver through that process. The reason for the closing had to do with the number of students at each school; it was smarter financially to combine the schools instead of having three small schools.

“Leading teachers and families and kids through that was definitely very challenging,” she said.

“There was a lot of emotion tied into the closing of an elementary school.”

During the pandemic, Kelly is also trying to help students and families adjust and transition.

She said she has done more home visits during the months of the pandemic than she has in the past five years, and to preserve some sense of normalcy, the school has made sure while open as a hybrid model in the past months that morning assembly still happens, though it has shifted to virtual — students are still recognized for their accomplishments, morning announcements are still given and students still say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kelly applied to be a part of KWEL after the suggestion of a couple of her colleagues, and she said she looks forward to forging relationships with the women involved and learning from them. She said she just heard the superintendent of the year talk, and she was encouraging and motivational.

“Certainly right now, I feel like we could all use a big dose of that,” Kelly said.

She said as leaders, she and the other women are trying their best and struggling with the pandemic while they try to determine how to best educate children during this time.

“I definitely feel like there’s a lot to benefit from this sisterhood, you know, that we can lean on each other, and we can take problems to one another and ask for solutions and resolutions to this,” she said.

According to the press release, “KWEL is designed for women working in P-12 public education who wish to strengthen or advance their careers. KWEL members benefit from a support system, leadership development opportunities, career advancement, shared experiences through a network of on-going professional growth and development, coaching and mentoring, and reward and recognition for exemplary leaders.”

Along with the inductees for the 2021 cohort, some of the state’s top female executive educators are planned to gather March 18-19 in Louisville for an induction ceremony and leadership forum.

Sheri Satterly, assistant superintendent for Danville Independent Schools, is one of Kelly’s colleagues who recommended Kelly apply and is a member of KWEL herself.

“Robin is a natural-born leader,” Satterly said. “She is a servant leader and puts her staff, students, and families first. I was able to work under Robin as a leader. Watching her lead and having her as a mentor was one of the best professional learning experiences I’ve ever had.”

In her experience working with Kelly, she said her leadership is exceptional.

“The level of structure that Robin leads with is amazing,” she said. “She has very high expectations for her teachers, and that translates into the classroom. Her building is run smoothly and the staff and students are happy. She works very hard to create a culture that is loving and safe.”