- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
After each election for a new president of the United States, it seems, there comes a decree to upset programs put in place by the previous administration. This often happens in the world of public education. New administrations often tie their ideas of how to best educate the nation’s youth with federal funding, forcing school districts to fall into lockstep with the president’s ideas.
For seven years, Superintendent Jack Smith led Calvert County Public Schools in the charge to meet the standards of two differing approaches to education. Under the Bush Administration, school systems were required to meet unclear standards with little to no help from the government, hence many jurisdictions referred to “No Child Left Behind,” the Bush-designed education plan, as an unfunded mandate, requiring systems to do more with little or nothing.
Then, Barack Obama was elected in 2008, and his administration devised its education initiative, dubbed “Race to the Top,” which directly ties student performance with teacher effectiveness, along with stringent demands that school systems are scrambling to meet or risk losing precious federal funding.
To be put in this position sets up some leaders to fail. Without an understanding of what it takes to keep a solid, acclaimed school system ahead of the curve, Calvert County Public Schools could have fallen into disarray. Instead, Smith recognized we are blessed to have some of the best and brightest at the helm, and allowed them to research what is required by both federal and state standards, brought their suggestions before the board of education and offered what he felt was the best approach to not only meeting the requirements, but also continuing to provide the quality education for which Calvert County Public Schools is known. His hard work was noticed at the state level last fall, when he was named the Maryland Superintendent of the Year for 2013.
Smith has announced he is stepping down as superintendent in August, catching many people off guard. Earlier this year, Calvert County was one of the few school systems in Maryland that was being used as a model in meeting the standards of the “Race to the Top” demands, having developed a model for teacher evaluations that will be tested this school year. A select group of teachers will be evaluated on how they perform in the classroom, graded by a supervisor, and then see how students perform on certain “core” curriculum courses and tests. Calvert submitted its proposal on how this process will be handled locally, and it was accepted on its first submission while other school systems in the state have had to resubmit their plans. That is but one example of how well-oiled a machine Calvert County Public Schools has been in making sure the focus remains on what it should be: preparing children for the future.
There have been incidents of late that have drawn eyes away from that focus. Plenty of media attention has been given to how the system’s disciplinary policies may need to be evaluated in order to ensure fairness and objectivity in light of the suspension of a kindergarten student with a toy gun. When Smith in an interview last week explained his decision to step down as superintendent of Calvert County Public Schools, he assured us this and other recent negative events did not color his decision to look into other avenues of preparing youth for the world ahead.
When looking at his resume, and the prosperity of this school system with a high graduation rate, a system closing the achievement gap between certain students and the “norm,” rising standardized test scores, a still-competitive salary rate for teachers and the constant pressure on the county, state and federal governments to give every dollar Calvert County schools deserve, Jack Smith has performed admirably.
People put into positions of power or leadership subject themselves to criticism of those who think they can do better. Smith handled a lot of criticism during his seven years as superintendent. But the Calvert County public school system is in a solid position to continue to produce outstanding men and women who will in turn contribute to the betterment of our society. We could argue what issues it does have at the moment are minor when measured against other school systems in Maryland. While Smith moves on from his leadership role here, we hope he continues to provide his calm, reasonable, thoughtful approach to education. We wish him the best.