Tonja Kelly Named Permanent Principal at RMS

Tonja Kelly Named Permanent Principal at Riverside Magnet School
Tonja Kelly

LEARN is delighted to announce that Tonja Kelly has been named the permanent principal of Riverside Magnet School (RMS) at Goodwin University. The Executive Committee of the LEARN Board of Directors approved Kelly’s position on May 28, effective for the 2020-21 school year.

Kelly, of Tolland, is an expert in elementary education with extensive experience across Connecticut. She has been interim principal at RMS since April of 2019. LEARN, a Regional Educational Service Center, administers the school in partnership with Goodwin University on the latter’s Riverside Campus in East Hartford. The University owns and has ultimate oversight of their campus inter-district magnet school operations. The magnet school offers a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach emphasizing project work, collaboration, nature, exploration, and more.

Kelly has worked at RMS since 2014, starting as assistant principal. She has helped guide the school through several achievements and goals, including NAEYC accreditation, the addition of a building through renovation of a neighboring school, and grade expansion. When RMS opened as a magnet school, it offered pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. It has expanded year-by-year to become a full pre-kindergarten through 5th grade elementary school, enrolling students from towns throughout Connecticut.

The school is a joyful place, where students explore their interests and ask questions to support their learning. As the school has grown, RMS has added more arts programs, increased community engagement through concerts and other outreach, and celebrated the first moving on ceremony for a 5th grade class.

“My heart is at RMS, where we have worked together to provide a supportive learning environment for all students,” Kelly said. “The leadership and faculty team at RMS has developed a warm welcoming environment that meets the students’ educational, social/emotional, and environmental needs.”

LEARN Executive Director Kate Ericson has been impressed by Kelly’s leadership through the past school year and the sense of community that RMS displays.

“Tonja Kelly has built bridges with students and families at Riverside Magnet School and has been a great mentor to teachers and staff,” Ericson said.

Goodwin president Mark Scheinberg added that Kelly has seen RMS through important building expansions and grasps the true spirit of the learning community.

“The buildings and facilities create a wonderful learning environment, of course, but Tonja understands the real magic of RMS is the spirit among the students, their families, and the school,” Scheinberg said.

Kelly is well experienced working with the state education system. In addition to her work for LEARN with RMS, she has also worked as a literacy facilitator for the State Department of Education. She’s worked for two other RESCs as well – the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) and Cooperative Educational Services (C.E.S.) – as an education specialist and literacy facilitator, respectively. She began her career as a special education teacher for South Windsor Public Schools and she has served as an adjunct instructor of student teachers for St. Joseph’s University in West Hartford.

Kelly earned her Bachelor’s degree in special education and communication disorders from Southern Connecticut State University and her Master’s degree in educational psychology from UConn. She completed her 6th year administrative certificate at UConn.

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