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The Calvert County Board of Education appointed Nancy Highsmith as the interim superintendent for the 2013-2014 school year Wednesday.

Highsmith was the principal at Patuxent High School for seven years and is now the first female leader in Calvert County Public Schools’ history, according to Eugene Karol, board of education president.

The board will begin a national search to find a permanent superintendent to replace outgoing Superintendent Jack Smith, who announced his resignation last week and has since accepted a position with the Maryland State Department of Education. Highsmith said she intends to be a candidate for the permanent position.

“The Board of Education carefully considered a number of highly qualified candidates from within the county before deciding that Ms. Highsmith is best suited to lead our school system through the upcoming school year,” Karol said in a press release. “We have complete confidence in her.”

Though Smith was not involved in the hiring process, he expects the board made the best choice for the coming year. “It’s a big job,” Smith said. “I’m sure Ms. Highsmith will do well and be challenged by it. I wish her all the best,” Smith said.

With this announcement, CCPS now has three principal positions to fill — at Patuxent, Northern and Calvert High Schools. Northern High’s former principal Sylvia Lawson left to join Charles County Public Schools and Kevin Howard has been the interim principal at Calvert High. Highsmith said she is hoping to fill the principal position at Patuxent sometime next week.

This school year, teachers will be evaluated and observed under new guidelines based on student performance — a large component of the national educational reform movement known as Race to the Top, according to Karol. As a former principal, Highsmith is familiar with this new model and said she believes the system is “in a good place” and “can move forward comfortably.”

“I’m looking forward to a very smooth transition from Dr. Smith,” Highsmith said. “Dr. Smith has been a wonderful superintendent. I really admire his work, and I hope to continue that. He has provided great guidance for the past seven years as superintendent.”

Highsmith has served the school system for 33 years, 19 of them as a teacher. She started in 1980 as a social studies teacher at Northern High and Northern Middle. She also served as a learning specialist, dean and vice principal, and was principal at Calvert Middle before moving to Patuxent High in 2005, according to the release.

Board member Tracy McGuire feels Highsmith’s school-based experience will be a plus going into the school year, and said the board intends for her to help move the school system forward.

“I’m thrilled to be part of such a wonderful school system,” Highsmith said. “Everyone works for the good of the system and for the good of the students.”

Highsmith graduated from Frostburg State College in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in social science and secondary education. She earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision in 1988 from Bowie State College, according to the release.

In addition to Highsmith’s appointment, the school board also approved the relocation of three CCPS-owned portable classroom trailers from other school sites to Beach Elementary School to accommodate the school’s overcrowding issue. The board voted to delay the redistricting of the school earlier this month to allow more time to come up with an effective plan. Local funds will be used for the $40,551 project that was not originally allocated in the fiscal 2014 budget. The board said it will determine a proper redirection of funds to accommodate this project at a later date.

snewman@somdnews.com