Kelli Howe was nominated by Kim Mattox, a member of her community.
Ms. Howe is a creative problem solver with a focus on improving culture and community. Over the last three years, student performance grades have steadily risen in her special needs school under her leadership as principal. While working on student performance in a school where all students have exceptional needs, Ms. Howe has developed and cultivated a culture that is focused on enriching the lives of students while also nurturing staff and teachers. One of her many accomplishments includes coaching seven teaching assistants into teaching roles.
In addition to supporting staff growth, Ms. Howe has created a Parent Teacher Organization, as well. Since the 2014-15 school year, the Webb Street School PTO has gone from non-existent to having a fund balance of over $65,000. These funds are integral in meeting the severe needs for students in her school. Unlike most public schools, students at Webb Street require special equipment for physical therapy, meals, recess, etc. Diapers, wipes, and other items that most would not consider as “school supplies” are needed every single day at Webb Street. Spending funds on these types of items can easily detract from other larger capital needs. However, under Ms. Howe's leadership, the PTO, community grants, and donations allowed Webb Street to build Gaston County’s only inclusive accessible playground at a cost of $394,000. All special needs students in Gaston County are welcome to visit and use the playground.
Another example of Ms. Howe’s outstanding leadership and ability to make a difference in the lives of her students includes establishing various vocational training opportunities on campus for students in the Transition Academy (ages 18-22). This initiative includes two working greenhouses that produce organic lettuce and ornamental plants for purchase, a working kitchen in which the students produce “Webb Waggers” dog treats, a coffee shop, a snack cart, and an on-site recycling program. In November, Webb Street School entered into a contract with PUBLIX to provide community-based vocational training for their students.
"Kelli is a leader who works tirelessly to ensure her students have every opportunity that can possibly be afforded to them," said Mattox. "She has made Webb Street a loving, caring school where her students and teachers want to come every single day."