By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — After a long climb up the professional ladder, Dr. Kim Smith was chosen the next superintendent of schools in Wakefield last night.
She will replace the outgoing Dr. Stephen K. Zrike if she’s able to come to employment terms with the School Committee. She now serves as assistant superintendent.
Dr. Smith has spent the past 29 years of her educational career in Wakefield, making her the likely choice to replace Zrike when he leaves the position at the end of the school year. Zrike has been tapped to be state receiver for the underperforming Holyoke school district.
At last night’s school board meeting, the vote for Smith was unanimous.
On learning about the appointment, Smith accepted the offer and said she was “overwhelmed” and would continue her “pursuit of excellence” in the district.
Over the past two years, Smith has been instrumental in implementing an instructional coaching model across the district. she has also piloted the review of new curriculum and worked with a task force to redesign professional development.
Zrike commented that when he came to Wakefield in 2013, he “walked into a gold mine.”
“Kim Smith is a gem. She’s a star. She’s talented, passionate and committed,” he said. “She has also become a dear friend.”
Today, on Wakefield’s Facebook page, the following comments were found:
“It’s about time! She’s the best!” and “Finally! Congratulations to Kim Smith and the students of Wakefield.”
Each school board member had the opportunity to speak about the search for a Superintendent before the vote was taken.
Member Thomas F. Markham III commented, “The option before us is very clear. We have a capable, intelligent, well-prepared person in the Superintendent’s Office — Dr. Kim Smith.”
Member Evan Kenney echoed Markham’s sentiments: “We had two really good candidates two years ago. It was a good problem to have. I’m disappointed to see Dr. Zrike leave but I have confidence in Kim Smith. The train is going in the right direction.” Kenney also mentioned that a superintendent search would cost thousands of dollars and that there was no need to spend money when there was already a great and solid internal candidate. Between 2012 and 2013 between $15,000 and $18,000 was spent on the search for a new superintendent following the departure of former Superintendent Joan Landers.
Member Anne Danehy added that she, too, was “sad” to see Dr. Zrike go but “we are in the best shape we could be in. The only option for me is Kim Smith.”
Gregory Liakos, also disappointed about Dr. Zrike’s departure, took a wider view on the subject. “The Commonwealth is in need of a strong leader. He’s right for Holyoke.”
Liakos added that Smith has “grown in two years” and that having worked with Dr. Zrike “she’s more qualified than ever.”
Before being named assistant superintendent in 2013, Dr. Smith served as principal of Wakefield Memorial High School since 2009 and was assistant principal of the school from 2004 until being named principal. She was also music facilitator for all grades of Wakefield public schools from 1993 to 2004 and instrumental music director from 1986 to 2004. Before coming to Wakefield she was instrumental music director for the Norwood Middle School from 1983 until 1986.
As music director in Wakefield, Smith built a state and regionally renowned music program, leading the high school bands to 15 consecutive years of championship titles and gold medals. She was honored as guest conductor for All-State Jazz Bands throughout New England.
Among her achievements as assistant principal of the high school, she led a faculty committee to create an effective hybrid schedule of long-block and traditional periods to meet the complex needs of the school community. She also designed a unique, highly supportive and effective educational program for students at risk with social/emotional/behavioral challenges.
As principal of the high school, Smith led the school community in a collaborative process to establish and bring to life shared core values, beliefs and 21st Century learning expectations. She also implemented curriculum alignment and professional development initiatives and established the structure and culture of collaborative practice as a professional learning community.
Smith also led the high school through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation self-study and evaluative process, receiving commendations by NEASC’s executive committee as “the principal who embodies the core values and beliefs espoused in the school’s mission statement.”
She also took an active role in the five-year district strategic action plan as action team leader for student learning.
Dr. Smith earned a bachelor of music education degree from the University of New Hampshire, master of arts degree in counseling psychology and a doctorate degree in educational leadership, both from Boston College.
She holds professional memberships in the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrations Association, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and NEMLEC STARS (School Threat and Response System). NEMLEC is an acronym for Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council.
During her interview for the Superintendent’s position in 2013, Dr. Smith, emphasized that she had already spent 27 years in the Wakefield school district and could “hit the ground running” if she were hired for the position.
She said her significant accomplishment at the high school has been to “create a culture of excellence.”
“Doing this is a fertile ground for what follows,” she said. “It’s the work ethic – setting a high bar to live up to.”
Smith’s main areas of focus are on collaboration, curriculum, professional development and bringing the district further into 21st Century learning in the area of technology.
She stressed the need for “face to face time” and spending time on curriculum development and bringing in guest speakers for professional development purposes.
“I fell in love with the Wakefield community,” said Smith. “I was 25 years old when I came here and I met my goal of creating the best music program over the 18 years I spent as music director and music facilitator for the district.”
“I was working full time when I accomplished that goal,” she said.
During the time she has spent as principal at the high school, Smith said she and other administrators have been studying the culture and have taken the lead on a “number of things,” including professional development and cost containment.
Smith stressed the importance of “cultivating professional, respectful relationships” and said that “communication needs to be handled daily.
“I’m in the classroom every day collaborating and helping to solve problems. As Superintendent I would be in each school once every six days to see where we’re going and what we’re doing,” she commented.
Technology, said Smith, factors heavily into 21st Century learning and moving the district forward.
“It’s critical that teachers use technology and build professional development around that,” she said.
On the topic of “whole child education,” Smith said she is a proponent and a “strong advocate of the arts and athletics.”
In solving difficult conflicts with students, Smith said it takes “courage, integrity and respect” to bring about a solution.
“There is nothing more important than a student’s well being,” she said.
“It all boils down to respect and shared values,” she said. “Core values is the glue that keeps us all together.”
“I’m a planner and very organized,” said Smith when asked about her leadership style. “I’m genuine, respectful and interact with everyone.”
She added that she is calm and it “takes a lot” to rattle her.
In wrapping up, Smith said she has a “deep desire” to bring Wakefield to the next level.
“Most people have the capacity to achieve excellence,” she said, “and I have a sincere commitment to excellence.”