Today, a meeting at the Montgomery County Board of Education officially announced Jack Smith as the finalist in its search for a new superintendent.
Smith currently serves as the interim state superintendent for Maryland. Prior to that, he was the superintendent in Calvert County and has worked at schools in Washington, Japan, and Thailand.
Michael Durso, President of the Board of Education, opened the meeting by humorously describing the search for a new superintendent as “a long, torturous, and interesting journey.”
The search process began with the consideration of candidates who were either recruited or applied on their own. 11 candidates from eight different states, including six people of color and four women, were then selected for interviews. Board’s decision to move on with the appointment of Smith was unanimous.
The official start of his term in July is contingent upon the written approval of the state superintendent of schools. Feedback from community stakeholders and contract negotiations will also play a part.
Durso described Smith’s support of effective instructional programs, budgeting, and use innovative strategies as aspects that would allow him to succeed as a superintendent.
“I am excited, nervous, and humbled to be working on this opportunity,” said Smith, when first introducing himself. “I am a true believer that public education will make a profound difference for a child, no matter their situation,” he explained, stating he planned to work “on the behalf of every single child.”
Smith’s foremost goals included getting to know the community he would be serving quickly. “It’s important not to come in and take everything apart,” he stated, stressing also not to overlook short-term successes and the importance of consulting staff members. “The biggest investment the school system has is its employees,” he explained, describing working towards “collaborative vision” with staff members who often have a better and more direct view of situations in schools.
Smith also addressed the achievement gap, noting the “significant distribution of graduation rates.” “Students need to reach the highest level of rigor in whatever they’re interested in,” he said, stressing that graduation is necessary. “They have to have choices and really be able to grasp those choices.”
When asked what he wanted MCPS to know about him, Smith mentioned his family—his wife and kids.
Smith noted that one of his strong suits is having a “calm demeanor” that allows for public confidence, but also a sense of urgency. “I can’t wait months or years to tell you what needs to happen,” he explained. “We don’t have to stop at proficient.” Smith also expressed appreciation over “blunt and direct conversations” with Board members.
When speaking about diversity, Smith described it as a gift to the county. “The children and adults that walk into our schools need to be invited in,” he explained. Smith then tied this into a larger idea of student achievement, citing his own experiences growing up in a “dusty little town in Eastern Washington.” He described “high expectations and sensitivity to what that child needs” as essential.
Technology was also a pressing issue. Smith expressed a focus on the present. “Schools don’t always have to look like the ones I sat in when I was in high school,” he said. “Information is at our fingertips.”
Smith’s short-term future plans involve getting more involved with MCPS. He will attend a budget hearing next Monday night, as well as education hearings later on. “I don’t want to talk much but listen and learn,” he said, to get into the job July 1st right away.
“We’re excited about the future—but make no mistake—also concerned,” said Durso. He closed off by describing a meeting this morning with county executives and council members, a “candid discussion” on moving forward.