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Superintendent receives “highly effective” rating

by Judy Reed

When Scott Smith was hired last summer to be the new Superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools, he had his work cut out for him. He walked into a district where the former superintendent had been asked to resign, and board members were being recalled. Would Smith, together with the board, be able to guide the district toward a path of unity and healing?

Superintendent Scott Smith

The Board of Education completed a comprehensive evaluation of Smith’s first year as Superintendent on Monday, June 24, and announced that he earned a rating of “highly effective.” The vote was unanimous, 7-0.

Board members used an evaluation system provided by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) to rate Smith’s effectiveness on 57 indicators. The seven members of the Board reviewed nearly 400 pages of artifacts representing Smith’s body of work for the 2018-19 school year.

Members of the Board cited several strengths in Smith’s work throughout the year, noting his student focus, his use of effective systems, his capacity to develop others, his transparency, leadership style and details in the required artifacts for evaluation. 

While the District is in the process of developing a three-year strategic plan, Smith cites improving student achievement as his top priority for the foreseeable future.

The Post asked Board President Heidi Reed if Smith’s leadership helped bring unity at a difficult time. “We did experience tension, which was the result of conflicting visions for what was best for the students, families, and staff who call Cedar Springs home,” she acknowledged, referring to what took place last year. “We have used this year to develop a unified vision for our District. Our new strategic plan, developed with input from over 2,000 Red Hawks, will be ready to guide our work in August.” 

According to a press release from the Board, the District Wide Strategic Plan, complete with data input from stakeholders will be presented to the BOE in the July meeting. “Progress made on the District strategic plan as well as on the District’s facility plan are both essential to Mr. Smith’s success in year two,” it said.

While it’s common business practice at the time of the superintendent evaluation to review the superintendent contract, Smith recommended that the BOE leave the contract as it currently stands. 

The Post asked Smith what his biggest challenge has been this year. “The biggest challenge for our team in my first year as the superintendent was finding the ‘right prioritization and pace’ for our work,” he said. “We strive to meet each student where she/he is and help them get the most out of each minute of each school day. We realize in some cases, we don’t have the systems or programs in place yet to accomplish that lofty goal for each one of our students. We invested a great deal of time this year listening to our students, parents, staff, and community members to develop the strategic plan that will guide the work of the District for the next three years. Over 2,000 people who call Cedar Springs Public Schools home contributed to the development of our plan. At times, we found ourselves ‘going slow’ this year to help us ‘go fast’ in the future. Our strategic plan, once approved by of Board of Education, will provide our team with a prioritized set focal points in the areas of Academic and Student Services, Engagement, and Operations. This plan will clarify our priorities and the pace of our work for the next three years.”

Has anything surprised Smith about Cedar Springs? “I knew the staff, parents, and community of Cedar Springs Public Schools loved their students. [But] it quickly became apparent the staff, parents, and community of Cedar Springs LOVEour students,” he remarked. “True love means putting the needs of others before self. Webster’s dictionary defines love as ‘unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another.’ The committed partnership between Cedar Springs Public Schools, our parents, and our community will result in transformational growth for our students. I am both grateful and excited to be a part of this work.”

One thing Smith has really enjoyed this year is reading to students. “The favorite part of my year was easily sharing a good book with our students. I quickly realized that my library of children’s books was limited. I received a healthy assortment of new storybooks for Christmas and my birthday from my family. I am ready for next fall!” he said. 

The Post asked Smith if there was anything he’d like to say to the community. “Thank you! Thank you for entrusting Cedar Springs Public Schools with the responsibility of educating the children of our community. Thank you for partnering with us as we engage in this complex work. Thank you for sharing your ideas and concerns with us when you experience something that isn’t working. Our feet hit the floor each morning, knowing that we have to be better than we were the day before. We aspire to get better at what we do each day for each student. Together, the investment we make in our students will result in a brighter future for the entire community of Cedar Springs,” he said.

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