to Our Children
for Anne Arundel County set out to find a new superintendent of
schools, expectations were high. After all, this individual would
carry a responsibility of monumental importance in the oversight
of all aspects of education for our children---the responsibility
of being a beacon for our educational system. Their search was
grand but the resolution became obvious---Dr. Eric Smith.
With more than 20 years of experience in education, Smith stepped
ardently into the position this past July, bringing with him a
contagious enthusiasm. "I feel that I have the best job in Anne
Arundel County. I truly have a passion for what I am doing." He
also brings with him a vision for our school system---and a definitive
plan. "I have clearly outlined my goals as superintendent and
have also specified how we will achieve these goals so that our
children will be fully prepared to take that next step into the
world when they complete their education here in Anne Arundel
County." More than 75,000 students and 120 schools make up the
Anne Arundel County school system.
Smith's track record is proof of his dedication to and expertise
in education. He was the recipient of a prestigious award, the
2002 Superintendent of the Year for the State of North Carolina.
Smith was also a finalist in the 2002 National Superintendent
of the Year Award.
When asked about his primary goals as superintendent, he says,
first, "Accelerate achievement for all students and minimize achievement
disparities among groups of students." Next, "Create a safe learning
environment that promotes accelerated achievement." And finally,
"Establish community partnerships to promote accelerated achievement
in a welcoming school environment."
Smith perceives his greatest challenge in attaining these goals
as "dealing with people's reaction to change. People say they
want change, but when the time for change arises, they are reluctant---it's
human nature. When the transaction of change is complete, however,
they are pleased."
Smith has committed himself to making these positive changes.
His work schedule is rigid, but he's not complaining. "My official
work day begins around seven in the morning and sometimes ends
as late as eight or nine in the evening. But I live it 24 and
7---because the education of our children is that important."
He has been well-received by his constituents, elected officials
and local agencies. "I am so impressed with the closeness of the
community. It's large yet there is such an intimate feeling and
so many individuals who are devoted to our children and influencing
their education positively."
When inquiring about the school system in today's world, it is
impossible to ignore the issue of security. "Security is a major
concern and it is something we are focusing strongly upon," says
Smith. "But I cannot stress enough that children are most safe
in our schools. We have in the past and continue to commit ourselves
to keeping it that way."
In the wake of current events, it is clear that we are walking
through uncharted territory when securing our schools, but reaction
time has been quick and adjustments are made with great precision
and adequacy. "We work closely with local authorities, elected
officials, state agencies and the federal government in dealing
with this issue. The lines of communication are wide open and
Born into a family of educators, Smith began his higher education
focusing on science and math not knowing at that time that he
himself was also destined to become an educator. "After some time
in school, I decided that I preferred working with real, live
children, rather than test tubes." Early in his career, he taught
math and science to middle school children in Orlando, Fla., then
earned the rank of principal and eventually became superintendent
in Charlotte, N. C.
Today, Smith and his wife, Carolyn (who is a guidance counselor
in Baltimore County), are settling into their new lives. "We bought
a home in Eastport and are in the process of remodeling it so
currently we are living amidst the nails and sawdust." They are
quite happy in their new home despite the growing pains and consider
themselves fortunate. "When we arrived in Annapolis, we were in
temporary housing while we looked for a home. When I was working,
my wife would go out looking at houses. On several occasions,
she called me telling me that she found one that was perfect and
it had just gone up for sale. But then, after work we would go
to look at the house and sometimes there would already be two
contracts on it. It was unbelievable."
They also enjoy their close proximity to the water. "We love taking
the water taxi over to the downtown area and having dinner." If
not riding the water taxi or dining downtown, you may find them
cruising in their 8-foot dinghy. That's right---a dinghy. Smith
laughs as he explains, "We sold our boat with our home in North
Carolina, so right now we just have a dinghy, but we have a great
time with it."
As for the holidays, Smith says, "Holidays have always been family
time for us." This Christmas and New Year's the entire Smith family
will gather in Florida for celebration and rejuvenation.
Smith's genuine concern for our children is obvious. He and his
wife have raised two children of their own and combine their practical
experience with their education. "Parents are the primary educators
in a child's life...the school system is there to enhance the
family institution," says Smith.
His best advice to parents: "Hug and kiss your children every
morning. Hug and kiss your children every night. Stay actively
involved in their lives and don't let them spend endless time
on the Internet without knowing what they are doing."
His advice to students: "Always do your best...you'll be glad
that you did."