- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Nominated by former board member
By LAURA DUKES
Calvert County Public Schools are in the state spotlight with the system’s superintendent Jack Smith now named Maryland Superintendent of the Year for 2013.
Smith, 55, was presented the award Thursday at the annual Maryland Negotiating Service Awards Banquet in Ocean City. He was selected by the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland after being nominated by former Calvert County Board of Education member William Phalen of Huntingtown.
“I was very surprised. It’s very nice and it’s humbling to be recognized by your peers,” said Smith, who said he learned of his nomination when the superintendents’ association sent him an information packet in September.
He said he is now in the running for the National Superintendent of the Year title and will attend an awards conference and banquet in Los Angeles in February.
Smith is in his seventh year as superintendent after having served as deputy superintendent under his predecessor, Kenneth Horsmon. He has also held the positions of principal and director in Calvert County after having worked as a principal for six years in Tokyo. He started his career as an English teacher in Washington.
Smith said being a school system administrator was not his ultimate career goal, but he was approached to fill a vice principal position. So he could still have some time in the classroom, Smith said he initially “split” the position with another teacher.
Even decades later, stepping into a superintendent’s role, Smith said he was surprised by “the weight of responsibility that you feel.”
Phalen said he nominated Smith because he has taken on that responsibility well.
“He took over a system that was very good, so he didn’t build that from scratch,” Phalen noted, continuing that nonetheless, Smith was presented with the difficulties of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the more recent recession.
“He looked at it and said, ‘How can we keep the school system as good as possible?’ and he’s done that,” said Phalen, who was a board member when Smith was named superintendent in 2006.
“You grow into the job and you grow out from the job. He has been a leader in the state and that has done Calvert County good,” Phalen said.
Phalen also credited Smith with implementing the Pinnacle Internet Viewer, which allows parents to check their children’s grades and progress online, and also the SchoolMessenger system, which sends instant school-related updates to phone numbers, email addresses and text message numbers.
Calvert County Board of Education member Eugene Karol, who previously served as CCPS superintendent and received the same honor as Smith, said he was impressed with Smith’s ability to stay “current” with issues like technology and education reform.
“I think he provides good leadership for the school system,” Karol said.
Karol said Smith was currently maintaining this ability to evolve by launching a new teacher and principal evaluation model as part of the federal Race to the Top Act.
Smith currently serves as a member of the Governing Board for the American Association of School Administrators, graduated as a member of Leadership Maryland in 2011 and served as president of the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland from 2011 to 2012.
Smith said in his years as superintendent, he has been pleased to see students taking more rigorous courses and the school system staff remaining strong, even during tough budgetary times.
“We’ve maintained a strong, positive system, [but] I don’t know that those are my accomplishments,” said Smith, who credited the other Maryland public school superintendents with giving him different perspectives on everything from politics to financial issues.
“I’ve learned so much from them. I can’t say enough about that group,” Smith said.
Smith and his wife, Gayle, live in St. Leonard. They are the parents of five children ages 30 through 22.