Published in the September 23, 2015 edition


WAKEFIELD — As Wakefield’s new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kim Smith wanted to communicate to the School Committee and the Wakefield community her core values.
“I think it’s important as a new superintendent to let people know who I am, what I stand for and what I believe,” Smith said. She added that over the course of the coming year she would be working with the School Committee, the faculty, staff and students as well as the community to define the district’s shared core values.
Smith defined core values as a “clarity of purpose and a culture of practice.” She said that a community’s core values can serve as “a rudder on the ship,” especially during rough periods.
“When things get challenging and difficult,” Smith said, “if you always come back to your core values, it really is amazing how the culture of excellence begins to develop.”
Smith said that she had three core values.
First, she said, “The central focus of my world is teaching and learning.” While that may sound obvious, she maintained that in our hectic day-to-day lives it can be easy to swerve from the focus of your work if you’re not really committed to it.
Underlying that first core value, Smith said, were a number of beliefs about teaching and learning. Her first teaching-related belief is that “Excellent teachers equal excellent schools.” To that end, she said, a high performing school district hires, develops and retains excellent teachers.
“A great culture for teaching,” Smith said, “is a collegial, professional environment where teachers share, take risks and practice effective strategies in their classrooms.”
Her underlying beliefs about learning, Smith said, begin with the idea that “all students can learn and I will never give up on a student as long as he/she is in my care.”
In addition, Smith said that she believed that student intelligence is not fixed but is expandable with effort, experience and the support of teachers.
“It is my ethical responsibility,” Smith said, “to provide all students with safe and equitable access to a rich and challenging curriculum.”
Her second core value, she said, was that “A culture of excellence is built on the ‘power of caring.’”
Underpinning that core value, she said, was her belief that relationships are at the heart of school culture and that in high performing schools those relationships are built on communication, trust, respect, integrity and a shared commitment to excellence.
She equated the aforementioned “power of caring,” with the coupling of “high expectations with inexorable support.”
Smith said that her third core value was “Diversity is fundamental to community.”
She defined diversity as “all individual human differences.” Diversity, Smith said, “creates a truly rich and vibrant community.”
Smith said that she saw it as her “ethical responsibility to provide a non-discriminatory school community that reflects justice and equity for all of its members.”
All members of the community must have a voice, she said, stressing that the voice of the dissenter must be especially values and protected.
As an exercise, Smith asked each School Committee member to write down in a sentence his or her purpose for being on the School Committee as well as one core value.
Chris Callanan said that his purpose for being on the School Committee was “to actively contribute to the continuous evolution of the Wakefield Public Schools in maintaining a student-centered culture.”
Greg Liakos said that his reason for being on the School Committee was “to share my passion for learning and my belief in the transformative power of education.”
Thomas Markham said that his purpose was “to provide leadership and an informed voice toward the provision of increased resources to quality teaching and learning.”
School Committee member Anne Danehy shared her core value that, “Education is the most important equalizer in society.”
Committee member Rob Tiro identified his purpose as “striving to be someone who contributes to and supports the empowerment of others.”
Chairman Kate Morgan said that her purpose on the School Committee was “to ensure that we have a school system that addresses the interests of all students at all levels and that we continue to move the Wakefield Public Schools in the most positive direction possible. Morgan identified “integrity” as her core value.
Smith said that over the course of the school year she would be reaching out to parents and the community in an effort to define what is most important for children in the district and what the Wakefield Public Schools stand for.