New Franklin High School assistant principal ready to raise the bar

Published 1:46 pm Saturday, September 27, 2014

As unlikely as it sounds, being involved in the Desert Storm operation as a surveyor moved new Franklin High School Assistant Principal Allen Keels onto the path of education.

New Franklin High School Assistant Principal Allen Keels.  -- CAIN MADDEN | THE TIDEWATER NEWS

New Franklin High School Assistant Principal Allen Keels. — CAIN MADDEN | THE TIDEWATER NEWS

As a surveyor, he was not at the forefront of the action, but rather, he was using technology to plan strikes. That gave him a lot of time to read, and one of the things he did was correspond through letters with an elementary school class in Texas.

“It got to the point where they invited me to the school when I was back at Ft. Hood,” he said. “They had a nice little thing for me there where I got to meet the mayor and all the different people in the community and school. And most importantly, I got to meet the kids that I was writing to.

“I thought that was just great, and it really fired me up for education.”

Keels got his start as a teacher in South Carolina, which is where he is originally from and where he went to college. After serving for 16 years, he was approached and asked if he’d ever considered administration by his principal.

“He came to me about three years ago and said, ‘You know, you would make a good administrator,’” Keels said. “I said, ‘Well, I like my classroom.’

“He replied, ‘I think you would make a better administrator. In your classroom, you can only control those four walls. As an administrator, you have run of the entire school.’”

He thought about it, was hesitant, particularly because he’d have to give up coaching. But then he realized that he could impact more children because after a certain point, everyone doesn’t continue to take social studies.

His first assistant principal job was in Gates County, North Carolina, though at the time, he was living in Suffolk, and wanted to make the move to a Virginia school system. And so he applied and fell in love during the interview process.

“I felt that the people that were interviewing me, because they asked some things of me that isn’t run of the mill, it made me think they really wanted me here,” he said. “This community, like every community, has its challenges. But that’s the fun part of it, meeting those challenges and still being successful. I looked at the report card, and it reminded me of the school where I was, and I wanted to come in and make a difference.”

Keels said he loves it here. He has so ever since he was first interviewing and he and his family came and looked at the school. He said he wants to be here for a long time.

“This is an ideal community,” he said. “I have a 13-year-old. When she gets to high school, this is where I want her to come. I like the make up here. I like the students, I like the staff members, and this is just where I want to be.”

Early on, though, there was a challenge, as he was hired late in the game. He didn’t actually start until Sept. 2 — the first day of school.

“I am really happy that the school only has these three halls,” he said. “If it had been a bigger facility, I would have been in trouble.

“It’s funny. Some of the kids were asking me, ‘Where is this class?’ I said, ‘That’s a good question. Let’s go find it.’ I imagine it was comical, as I was walking the halls with my map, looking to see where the teachers are.”

Principal Travis Felts said he’s been a good fit.

“He’s fitting in very well with the teachers,” he said. “It was a challenge because he was hired late in the game, but considering that, it has been amazing the transition that he has been able to accomplish with no lead time.”

Felts said the way he sees it is that he and Keels will collaborate a lot and share the administrative duties. And he thinks Keels is a good complement to him, particularly since Keels taught a Standards of Learning core subject, while Felts taught health and physical education.

“He isn’t a guy who talks a whole lot — he just gets the job done,” Felts said. “We’re excited to have him.

“I will say this about our goals. Our goals are no longer to just be fully accredited. We are going to ramp it up. We need to move to the next step, not just maintain accreditation because those are the minimum standards.”