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Kenneasha Sloley is Calvin Leete Elementary School’s new principal. (Photo courtesy of Lorri Hahn )
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Kenneasha Sloley said she has always known she was meant to be an educator and has led many different types of schools in her career, ranging from very urban to very rural. Even with that background, she said taking over as the principal at Calvin Leete Elementary School has been an exciting experience.
“The vision of Guilford public schools is what was most attractive to me in wanting to be a part of this learning community,” Sloley said, “because it truly supports the learning process for not just the students, but also for adults.”
After earning a teaching degree from St. Joseph’s Teachers College in Jamaica, Sloley went on to earn a second bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University. She also received her master’s degree at Central, and subsequently her administrator’s certification from UConn.
Before arriving in Guilford, Sloley headed up the Dr. Michael D. Fox Elementary School in Hartford for three years.
A little over a month into her tenure at Calvin Leete, Sloley said she has been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support from the community, and has found Guilford’s unique ability to passionately work together for the benefit of students a welcome and fulfilling experience.
“That’s one thing that I truly appreciate,” Sloley said. “That true sense of family, and the fact that the parents are very involved in the day-to-day operations of the school—it just really supports the whole notion of, ‘It takes a village.’”
Sloley is the daughter of educators. Her mother worked as a principal for 41 years, and her father taught for 37 years. Sloley said she was actually in her father’s 4th-grade class as a young girl.
Having such exposure to school systems and teaching gave her an idea of the work and skills required to be an educator, Sloley said, and taught her certain values from a young age.
“There’s no chance of missing any of the homework,” she laughed.
Sloley said that her younger sister ended up becoming an attorney, though, which is part of how she knows being an educator is not just part of her environment, but really part of her soul.
“I could have chosen to do anything else,” she said. “But maybe that early onset of teaching summer classes and always being around kids just sort of helped to foster that love for education.”
At Calvin Leete, Sloley described her educational philosophy as being holistic and inclusive, highlighting again what she has already seen from Guilford parents and teachers as far as the focus on collaboration. She also said she wants to create an environment “that provides the opportunity for self-love, and the love of others.”
Sloley said she was especially excited to learn about and be involved in a program called Choose Love. The program is a way to emphasize social-emotional aspects of education, Sloley said, and piggybacks off of another initiative through which staff members single out students who showed exemplary responsibility, safety, respect, or leadership.
Starting last year, Sloley said staff can recognize students for their empathy and compassion as well, which helps foster a more emotionally open community in the school. Her personal addition to that program is to designate a randomly selected pair of students who have previously received recognition as part of the Choose Love program as Principals of the Day.
“They are super, super excited about that,” said Sloley. “They are like, ‘Do I get to exercise the authority? Does the authority come with the title?’ And I say, ‘Supervised authority.’”
Those students do get to accompany Sloley as she makes her rounds of the school, and even get to use the staff radio—something Sloley said was a source of particular glee for the lucky students.
The wider community’s feedback has been similarly positive, she said.
“Even persons who do not have children within my school—they’ve sent emails, they’ve sent phone calls just welcoming me to the community. It might be someone calling into leave a best wishes note with my secretary,” she said. “The smile remains on my face.”
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