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New superintendent takes the reins

Superintendent Scott Smith begins a new era in Cedar Springs. Post photo by J. Reed.

by Judy Reed

Scott Smith, the new superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools, is ready to take on the challenge of building trust, collaboration, and healing within the district. “I’m excited,” he said.

Smith took over on July 1 from interim superintendent Mark Dobias.

So how does Smith plan to proceed? He said he plans to first start getting to know staff. “It’s about having conversations with people, getting a sense of their needs, and how we can best serve their work,” he explained. “Conversations with an elementary principal will be different than conversations with a grounds supervisor.”

Smith sees his role as someone that helps people maximize their talent, time, and ambition. “We need to make sure people have what they need to be wildly successful,” he explained.

He knows some people on staff and in the community will want to get things off their chest. He said that the healing piece would start with him listening. “I’ll listen to better understand the whys behind the way people felt; apologize for the district in cases where it’s needed; and take action to correct that,” he said.

What is Smith’s favorite thing about being an educator? “Educators help people to connect their gifts and talents to make a difference in their community and other people’s lives,” he explained. He said that he worked at Prince for a time, and learned things there that he still takes with him—things like putting others first, and adding to the bottom line. “There it was adding to the profit margin, but that’s what’s so cool about this work—here you are adding to the bottom line of a human being.”

Smith was born in Kalamazoo, but the family moved to Jackson when his dad, who worked for Consumers Energy, was transferred. So he grew up there, and graduated from Jackson Northwest High School. He came back to this side of the state when he attended Western Michigan University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics/Earth Science in 1998. He has stayed in West Michigan ever since, working at Holland Public Schools as a middle school science teacher; at Hamilton Community Schools as both an assistant Jr./Sr. high principal and middle school principal; and then Asst. Superintendent of Human Resources at Hudsonville.

Smith said that Cedar Springs has been on his radar as a district he would love to work in for some time. He applied for the Superintendent job in 2014 as well. “I was incredibly selective in the districts I applied to,” he explained. “Kent and Ottawa County is the best place in the world. I didn’t want to leave this part of the planet.”

Smith noted that he didn’t let the problems the district was having scare him away. “Everyone I talked to about Cedar Springs said that yeah, they might be going through a tough time, but that Cedar was known for its strength and richness of community,” he said.

Smith and his wife Sarah are currently getting their house in Hamilton ready to sell so that they can move to Cedar Springs. The couple has been married since 2001 and has two boys, ages 25 and 22, who are on their own. “We felt like it was a good time to reestablish roots somewhere else,” he said.

Sarah works at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital as a schoolteacher and liaison to patients there. She both teaches children and has teams of volunteers she oversees that come in to help.

Smith said that he plans to be active in the community, and get to know residents, by engaging in things like Rotary, the Chamber, and other groups. “Living here will be a big help,” he said.

He is also always open to talking with people. He said that people can reach him however they think best—through the suggestion box on the website, through email, or they can call the office. If they want to meet, he can do that. He also plans to be on hand at school activities such as band concerts, plays, and sporting events.

What would Smith like to say to residents in the district?

“Thank you for this opportunity to serve. If you have a question, reach out to us—to our teachers, principals, and district. It’s our job to take care of the needs of this community from an educational perspective. Let us know how we can help you.”

 

 

 

 

 

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