Principal of the Year Angelo DelliSanti puts his trust in the ‘Carson tradition’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

CHINA GROVE — Angelo DelliSanti’s journey to become the 2017 Rowan-Salisbury Schools Principal of the Year began years ago, with his natural flair for mathematics.

Born and raised in Kannapolis, DelliSanti decided to take an AP calculus class his senior year at A.L. Brown High School. But not everyone could pick things up as fast as he did.

It’s how he ended up with a pseudo teaching assistant role in a freshman math class, where he worked closely with struggling students. One student in particular had never had much luck with the subject, but with careful coaching from DelliSanti, he began to flourish.

“To see him get it and to see the light bulb go off was kind of an epiphany for me,” DelliSanti said.

It was then that he began looking toward a career in education. During his senior year of college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Debra Morris, who was then principal of A.L. Brown, took DelliSanti under her wing with an internship, and he began thinking about a future in school administration.

By the time he earned his degree, DelliSanti knew he wanted to be a principal.

“That’s kind of a taboo thing to say as a student, and even more so as a first-year teacher,” he said.

After graduating, DelliSanti returned to his hometown and taught world history at A.L. Brown for more than four years. He was there when Morris was named State Principal of the Year, so he said he knows what good leadership is.

In 2012, he became an assistant principal at Mooresville Middle School, where he worked with another Principal of the Year.

“So I’ve had two very good models for what a good principal should be,” he said.

His move to Carson was a stroke of luck. DelliSanti said that in 2014, he was actually planning to take the helm of a school in Mecklenberg County and had already signed the contract. But while the district dragged its feet on finalizing paperwork, the job at Carson came open.

“I said, ‘It might be worth putting my name in the hat for that,’” he recalled.

Carson was just a short drive from his Kannapolis home, and the district was beginning to launch its one-to-one technology initiative — a program DelliSanti had worked with his entire career.

But at just 28, he was young for a principal. He said district administrators took “a pretty big risk” hiring him. That first year at Carson was rocky in more ways than one.

“Before I became a principal, I really thought I was ready to be a principal,” DelliSanti said. “And then you get into the seat and you realize that you’re never ready.”

Principals are under a great deal of pressure normally, but DelliSanti put even more on himself trying to do what he thought was expected of him. When he looks back on his first year at Carson, DelliSanti said, he did a lot of things that weren’t really him or didn’t follow his teaching style.

But the next year, he learned to let go and Carson “took off.”

Carson has a strong culture, DelliSanti said. When he trusted in that, things fell into place.

“The Carson tradition is students first, and that was established well before I got here,” he said.

One of his main focuses has been to ensure that the culture thrives and is at the forefront of every decision. DelliSanti also relies on his natural ability to bring people together to encourage cooperation among staff — and he’s placed a lot of trust in the faculty.

“I think that I try really hard to trust people to do their job,” he said.

One of his first moves as principal was to tell his staff that all leave requests would be approved. Before, teachers at Carson missed an average of three days a month, but after implementing the new policy, the average teacher took just half a day off each month.

“Teachers are professionals, and I think we don’t always treat them as professionals,” he said.

His goal has been to return that honor to Carson. He’s launched a “Staff Member of the Month” award, as well as hosted monthly socials for staff members and their families.

DelliSanti’s commitment to forging relationships and preserving culture are behind everything he does.

“We try to make Carson a place where people can thrive and grow,” he said.

This year, students who were freshmen when DelliSanti first stepped through the doors will don their caps and gowns for graduation. He said it feels like a milestone for him, and that this is the first graduating class he’s truly known. And he can’t wait to see them fly.

“I am very excited to see what they’re going to do in the future,” he said.

DelliSanti has been married for 10 years to Kasey. He is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at UNC-Charlotte.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.