By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — At their Tuesday, June 23 school board meeting, members heard Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike say of soon-to-be Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith that he had every confidence there would be a seamless transition when he leaves the district in early July.
“She’s an organizer, a planner — she already has next year planned out.”
In an interview with Dr. Smith on Friday, she said that Dr. Zrike’s words were true.
“I am a prodigious planner,” she said. “I’ve already mapped out the framework for next year. Now, I will fill in the details.”
About her appointment as new Superintendent, she said, “We don’t have to put the brakes on. We’re already there.”
The framework she referred to includes three objectives in a strategy that will be achieved over the next three years: Quality teaching, rigorous curriculum and individualized student learning.
Quality teaching entails investing in and developing educators to provide students with powerful teaching and learning that prepare them for college, career and citizenship.
Rigorous curriculum involves the implementation of consistent, (Common Core) standards-aligned curriculum supported by high quality instructional resources and individualized student learning means ensuring that each student receives targeted, data-informed instruction, with appropriate social and emotional supports.
As a first step, she and her leadership team, which includes principals, assistant principals and department heads, will meet on Wednesday, July 1 to develop target action steps.
Targeted goals include: Increasing reading proficiency in kindergarten through grade 3, increasing student growth in reading and math in grades 4 through 8 and increasing the percentage of high school students who attain advanced performance level English Language Arts for college readiness.
Two years ago, when Dr. Smith was named Assistant Superintendent under Dr. Zrike, she said, “we all knew it (Dr. Zrike’s time in Wakefield) would not be long term.”
She added that working alongside him helped her grow to even greater professional heights.
“Dr. Zrike is masterful at mobilizing resources and knowing what is good for children,” she said.
Smith said she watched as he did “leg and footwork” to get full-day kindergarten off the ground.
“It has failed over time in a number of communities,” she said. “He came with a vision — he wanted full-day kindergarten for Wakefield.”
Achieving his goal, Smith said, meant putting his “boots on the ground” and holding individual and group conversations with various people in the community, inside and outside the schools.
“I learned from him by watching and listening,” said Smith.
“What an honor for Dr. Zrike to be reached out to by the Commissioner,” she said. “I’m proud of him. He gave all of himself to Wakefield. One hundred percent.”
Dr. Smith plans to hire an Assistant Superintendent and a job posting will happen soon.
“I will do both jobs until we have someone in place,” she said.
Already, she has developed in her mind a profile of what an Assistant Superintendent will look like. The person she hires will have a strong background in curriculum (how teaching is handled), instruction and assessment and professional development. Whomever she hires must also have 100 percent confidence in his or her abilities and express good judgment.
“I will look for core values that match my own,” she said. These include integrity, placing students above all else, a passion for education, people skills and a solid work ethic.
As busy as she will be over the summer months, Dr. Smith will balance her life with some rest and relaxation.
“I hope to get some days at the ocean and take in a few ball games,” she said. An avid reader, Dr. Smith wants to tackle a few books, too. She is currently reading “Harvard Square” by Andre Aciman.
The interview concluded with a few words about her lengthy role as an educator in Wakefield.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t feel happy when I see the exit sign for Wakefield on Rte. 128,” she said.
Published in the June 29, 2015 edition