Kelly Mest is entering her fifth year as the principal of Northside College Preparatory High School (Northside). She is proud of the school-wide focus on equity and access to opportunities, including a summer algebra program, targeted supports for social and emotional learning (SEL) and the mental health of the school community, and the development of a Freshman Academy. Under Kelly’s leadership, Northside achieved Level 1+ status, the highest possible, on the district’s School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) during the 2014-15 school year and maintained this performance ever since. Kelly is particularly proud of the school’s SQRP performance during the most recent year: Northside was one of four schools in the district to achieve a perfect score of five points on the rating scale.
In the upcoming school year, Kelly hopes to continue strengthening Northside’s equity mindset by increasing the opportunities given to all students, but particularly those in underserved communities. She emphasizes this mission repeatedly within the school and to key stakeholders, with the goal of making it a visible part of everyday operations – from the classroom, to the cafeteria, to every space in Northside.
Kelly graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in English. She has also received a master’s in secondary education from DePaul University. Kelly began her teaching career as a founding faculty member at Northside. Within two years, she became the English department chair, and loved the privilege and challenge of leading her talented teacher team. Three years later, Kelly transitioned to join the new faculty of Lindblom Math and Science Academy as the English department chair. At this point, under the strong encouragement of her principal, Kelly began to formally pursue the path to the principal role. After four years, she became the assistant principal of Lindblom and in 2012, she worked on a joint project with her principal through the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals. In 2013, she returned to Northside as the new principal.
One of Kelly’s favorite aspects of the principal role is supporting and witnessing learning in action, whether with students or adults. She is looking forward to having the opportunity to learn and collaborate with her CPS colleagues through the Fellowship experience. She is excited to grow as a leader during the program and better serve those that she leads at Northside as a result.