The St. Mary’s school board did a smart thing June 26. Officially. It gave Scott Smith a four-year extension as superintendent of the county’s public schools.

He also got pay bump of $21,500 up to his new salary of $225,000. But when you consider all that Smith is responsible for, and the high level at which he has performed his duties as superintendent, that’s a bargain.

Smith has clearly invested himself in St. Mary’s schools. Coming to the county in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education from SUNY Buffalo, he spent a decade as an English teacher at Leonardtown High School. He was chair the department for the last six of those years. In 2000, he became the school’s assistant principal, eventually becoming the principal at Leonardtown two years later.

So for as heralded and respected as Smith was in the classroom, clearly there was more ahead for him in his future as an administrator.

He added to his resume in 2007 when he was named director of secondary schools in 2007, later advancing to executive director in 2012.

Smith became acting assistant superintendent of instruction in 2013, and the interim superintendent in 2014 after the departure of Michael Martirano, who had served as superintendent here for nine years until he left to be state superintendent of West Virginia public schools. Martirano is now superintendent of Howard County’s public schools.

Smith, who was a trusted lieutenant of Martirano, has proven himself to be a different kind of leader. Martirano was no stranger to the spotlight, and would often seek it — not for his own self-aggrandizement as much as for the good of the school system. While Smith doesn’t actively chase the limelight like his predecessor, neither does he shy away from it. He is clearly comfortable in his own skin as the face of the county’s public schools, and has repeatedly stepped up confidently to the plate to take a swing for the people he represents.

He continues to do that every year come budget time with the county commissioners. Smith doesn’t merely go hat in hand to make a pitch for appropriate school funding, but makes a compelling case for why the system needs what it needs.

But Smith showed his true colors as a leader — and as a human being — during one of the most difficult seasons St. Mary’s has ever endured in its educational system. On March 20, 2018, a student at Great Mills High School shot and killed a former girlfriend, and also injured another student before turning the gun on himself. In addition to the strength and courage shown that day and beyond by Great Mills Principal Jake Heibel and his staff, Smith was an assuring voice of calm and reason to families of students throughout the county. In a call sent that night to all St. Mary’s families with a child in school, Smith said in part, “We will have long days ahead and heavy hearts. Hold your child close and talk to them about what is going on in their life and in the lives of their friends. Our greatest strength is our community and the information we share with each other.”

And those aren’t just words for Smith. Spend even a few minutes in his presence, and you quickly learn that he cares. He cares about the 18,000 students in his charge in the county’s public schools. He cares about the 2,500 employees in the system. He cares about the community he has made his own.

“St. Mary’s County Public Schools has been my home for 28 years and I am honored and thankful to continue as its superintendent for the next four years,” Smith said after the school board officially inked him through 2023.

We’re happy to have him here as well. And, we hope he will continue to advocate for students and teachers and avoid the complacency that sometimes creeps into education, instead keeping St. Mary’s public schools on an upward trajectory.