Kelly Williams with student

Starting a new job is never easy. But starting a new job at the school that has always been your county rival, is even harder. Bradie Shrum Elementary School Principal Kelly Williams is showing that her red, white and blue roots can be replanted. 

Williams, who used to be a technology administrator at West Washington, is now leading the school at BSE. She said she wasn’t really seeking a job at BSE but the timing was right and it was a good opportunity.

The size between the two schools is one of the main differences between the two corporations. The amount of kids at the elementary school is the same as all of West Washington schools combined. BSE is one of the largest elementary schools in the state of Indiana. 

Williams appreciates the professionalism and the ambition that the staff has. “We have been able to have a lot of open and honest conversations about what the next steps are for Bradie Shrum,” she said. She loves how welcoming the teachers and staff have been to her throughout this process and said they have been open to new ideas and everyone helps to  make it happen. “I can't thank the staff enough for their efforts this year,” said Williams.

Williams said she hasn’t always been in education. “I have an untraditional path to education leadership,” she explained. Williams used to be an interior designer in Louisville. One of her very first projects happened to be redesigning a school. She knew that she wanted to remain in Washington County and start her family. She came to the decision that she wanted to return to school to become a teacher. That decision was based on wanting to build her life in a small town where she could make a positive impact. She started her career as a  special education teacher. In 2014 she completed her educational leadership degree, which soon led her to the opportunity at West Washington through the technology integration process.

 “Maybe it's the designer in me, but I love creating a vision and solving problems,” said Williams. Leading a building lets her do both of the things she loves. She enjoys looking at different aspects of the situation and leading teams of people through the solution.

Williams admitted it was a bit of a challenge for her to be principal at a different school because she was born and raised in red, white and blue. She is now supporting black and gold. She believes in one big community, outside of an athletic competition. The goals are the same: educate and prepare the youth. “Both schools I have now been a part of do this with their heart and soul everyday,” she said. She is confident those in the county wearing purple and gold do as well. 

Williams loves the energy levels that the kids bring to all situations. “No matter what the day brings you can always find a lightness with a simple conversation with a child,” she said. The only difficulty Williams had associated specifically from growing up a Senator and entering the Lion's den was trying to figure good ways to respond to the friendly jabs she receives from both Salem and West Washington fans. Making sure she is wearing the right color at events, as she does go to a lot of West Washington events, too, is important. Both of her children are actively involved in many school activities at West Washington.

She is excited to get to know the staff and students. “It is a big place, bigger than I even knew,” said Williams. That has been one of the challenges of becoming principal. She expected to come in and evaluate the unique climate and culture of the building and look for opportunities of growth. That will be her expectation every year.

Coming into a different school can be difficult for anybody, but it can also be an opportunity. “I really embrace the fact that I get to come in with fresh eyes, evaluate the facts in front of me and work with a fantastic team to make improvements everyday,” said Willams. 

While some changes have been made, most changes have also been made in scheduling are occurring naturally as we move out of the Covid era. “I see this year as a building year. We get to try some new things and make some adjustments,” Williams said.

The PLC (Professional Learning Communities) time has been a great asset; it allows the staff and teachers to come together as a team and discuss what is going well. They talk about what they can improve and continue to look at data and research to make informed decisions on instructional practices.