Daniel E. Richards started his career in the business field but eventually went back to school and switched to education because he wanted to be able to affect others’ lives in a meaningful way.
“Looking at a spread sheet just didn’t give me as much satisfaction as touching the future,” said the assistant principal of
“Being an educator may not be as glamorous but what other jobs are there where you can have a hand in shaping the future of our youth?” he said.
It turns out Richards has been so successful in his second career that he was named the Assistant Principal of the Year by the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association (MSSAA) in December, the only one to ever receive the honor in this state.
Richards is also one of three finalists for National Assistant Principal of the Year and is today in San Francisco at the National Association of Secondary Principals Conference where he will find out in the next few days if he is honored with the title.
“It’s such an honor because educators do the selection,” Richards said. “To be nominated by educators in the field of their craft is very humbling.”
The NASSP annually recognizes secondary school leaders who demonstrate exemplary skills in educational leadership. The core requirements for selection are demonstrated success in collaborative leadership, curriculum, instruction and assessment as well as in personalization of the administrator’s task.
After being named the Assistant Principal of the Year by MSSAA, Richards had a fair amount of work to complete including submitting a personal statement and paper based on three different criteria. He also participated in an hour-long interview on his educational philosophy.
Richards will also be giving a 15-minute presentation on his initiatives at Belmont High.
Noting Richards' leadership qualities
“Teachers as leaders is the theme,” he said. “I will be speaking about tapping into their leadership qualities.”
An assistant principal at Belmont High since 2005, Richards said the position gives him the privilege to going around and seeing all the talent in the building.
“All the programs I’ve implemented have been with the help of a full team – teachers, office staff and right down to an outstanding janitor,” he said.
Richards said he could not do the work he has to date without their help and particularly thanks his secretary, Cindy Femino.
In addition to his responsibilities in crisis management, Richards is in charge of implementing and monitoring all MCAS testing for the high school: identifying the students who have to take the exam, ensuring the testing environment is suitable for all students, analyzing results and, if students fall short, working on an educational proficiency plan.
In supporting Richards’ nomination, several of his colleagues cited his work in revising BHS’s professional development model, instituting an annual Diversity Week celebration and streamlining the school’s discipline system among other initiatives.
“Dan is an extremely talented educator who cares deeply about the success of all students,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Janice Darias.
“He does whatever is needed to support teachers so that they can focus on their work with students in their classes,m” said Darias.
Darias said the work Richards did to prepare the high school for its NEASC accreditation visit in March 2012 is extraordinary.
Prepping for accreditation
“His ability to create organization and timelines have guided the work, and made a complex and challenging task much less so,” she said.
“But even more impressive, Dan has developed the leadership capacity of the teachers who are on the Belmont High School steering committee for NEASC. These teachers lead each of the committees studying and writing about a particular standard in preparation for the accreditation visit.”
Darias explained that Richards began working with the teachers two years ago, helping them develop the leadership skills that now support their work leading teams of colleagues in the NEASC self-study process.
“We are very fortunate to have Dan as a member of the Belmont High School leadership team, and extremely proud that he has been recognized both at the state and national level,” she said.