Q&A with SAD 61 Superintendent Alan Smith

PROFILE: Alan Smith Alan Smith was unanimously approved by the SAD 61 School Board to become Superintendent of Schools, succeeding Dr. Kathleen Beecher. He was given a three-year contract with an annual salary of $117,500. Education: Smith completed the administration master’s degree program at the University of Maine at Orono in 2001 and the C.A.S. degree program in administration at UMO in 2007. Employment Background: Previously, he was the Superintendent of Schools at RSU 68, which includes the towns of Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson and Sebec (the district touches two counties, Piscataquis and Penobscot).  The school district is a Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 system with about 1,005 students and three schools. The district contracts with Foxcroft Academy, a private high school. Prior to taking the RSU 68 post in 2009, Smith was Superintendent of Schools at Union 90 (Milford) from 2006–2009. The school system is a Pre-K to Grade 8 with an estimated 423 students and two schools. 2002–2006, Principal at Dexter Middle School. 1994–2002, Grade 8 science teacher/assistant principal (duties) in Augusta; Grade 8 team leader and advisor; science curriculum team; and middle school science department lead teacher. 1989–1994, Alternative Education coordinator and teacher in Gardiner; developed first alternative/behavior program at SAD 11 and advisor/advisee programs; classroom consultant for at-risk students. 1982–1988, industrial chemical sales/consultant, Diversy Wyandotte Corp. and Oakite Products Inc. 1976–1982, Physical Education and Health teacher at Union 113 (East Millinocket). 1975–1976, Physical Education teacher, Grades 6-8 in Bridgton.

PROFILE: Alan Smith
Alan Smith was unanimously approved by the SAD 61 School Board to become Superintendent of Schools, succeeding Dr. Kathleen Beecher.
He was given a three-year contract with an annual salary of $117,500.
Education:
Smith completed the administration master’s degree program at the University of Maine at Orono in 2001 and the C.A.S. degree program in administration at UMO in 2007.
Employment Background:
Previously, he was the Superintendent of Schools at RSU 68, which includes the towns of Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson and Sebec (the district touches two counties, Piscataquis and Penobscot).
The school district is a Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 system with about 1,005 students and three schools. The district contracts with Foxcroft Academy, a private high school.
Prior to taking the RSU 68 post in 2009, Smith was Superintendent of Schools at Union 90 (Milford) from 2006–2009. The school system is a Pre-K to Grade 8 with an estimated 423 students and two schools.
2002–2006, Principal at Dexter Middle School.
1994–2002, Grade 8 science teacher/assistant principal (duties) in Augusta; Grade 8 team leader and advisor; science curriculum team; and middle school science department lead teacher.
1989–1994, Alternative Education coordinator and teacher in Gardiner; developed first alternative/behavior program at SAD 11 and advisor/advisee programs; classroom consultant for at-risk students.
1982–1988, industrial chemical sales/consultant, Diversy Wyandotte Corp. and Oakite Products Inc.
1976–1982, Physical Education and Health teacher at Union 113 (East Millinocket).
1975–1976, Physical Education teacher, Grades 6-8 in Bridgton.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Alan Smith is excited about “being home” in southern Maine and is eager to tackle new challenges that await him as SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools.

With the start of the new SAD 61 school year just five days away, The News sat down Tuesday morning with Superintendent Smith to gain some insight as to how he approaches his job, what he sees as the biggest challenges facing the school district, and what goals he has created for his first year as leader of the school system.

Q. What drew your interest to apply for the SAD 61 superintendent’s job?

ALAN SMITH: I originally started here and knew the area very well. I graduated from Scarborough High School, and wanted to get back to southern Maine. But, I really didn’t want to be in the city atmosphere. I had that opportunity a couple of years ago, but passed on it. This (SAD 61) still has country flair, and people care about kids.

Q. How did you become interested in pursuing education as a career?

ALAN SMITH: My family was always involved in education. My mother and father went up the ranks as teachers and administrators. I think there was a connection there. Quite honestly, it was a metamorphosis. I left college for a while; went back; went into the private sector (chemical industry/pulp and paper mills); and found I missed working with kids (I was a teacher and a coach before moving into the private sector).

Q. Did you ever think you would become a superintendent?

ALAN SMITH: No. My father used to tell me I should become a principal or administrator. I said not a chance. I would see how they were never home and had all those meetings to go to. It’s not a life I want. Then, things changed. It was very hard to leave the classroom. I just felt I had an opportunity, as an administrator, to make more changes that would benefit kids, which was the reason I decided to try it. At one point in time, I still had an interest to be in the classroom, but over time, I realized that other things needed to be done. I really enjoy the mentorship with other administrators (hopefully, I do a good job with that).

Q. What factors made you decide it was time to move on from your previous position at Dover-Foxcroft and take the SAD 61 job?

ALAN SMITH: I like challenges. I like opportunities. When I saw that I had completed some of the goals I had set out for myself, I knew it was time for a change. When the excitement is no longer there, it is time to look around and see where else you could land where there are great opportunities for yourself and the community you will serve. Where I was before, it was a great community and we made great strides educationally. It was time to look for new challenges. This is a nice niche for me and my skill set.

Q. What were your most enjoyable educational experiences?

ALAN SMITH: Teaching would be one because I had the opportunity to teach in some very good school systems. I had the luxury of teaching science at the high school and middle school levels, working with some inner city kids at a private school to coaching and the team aspect.

Q. How was the role of the superintendent evolved?

ALAN SMITH: There is such an emphasis on school systems to meet targets and improve and be compared to everyone else. Money is always a difficult topic. The process used now is really challenging. Be fair to the community, be fair to kids and meet all the mandates required of us is very difficult. The money just isn’t there. Business isn’t booming as it once was. Maine has lost a lot of industry, and it’s not going to come back. So, how do we reinvent ourselves?

Q. Once on board here, how did you go about familiarizing yourself with SAD 61?

ALAN SMITH: It was pretty easy for me because I was hired and accepted the position in early spring. I had vacation days left in my other district, so I was able to take time off and come here and meet people, visit the schools, and had an invite to sit in on some of the negotiations that were occurring. It’s a good way to meet people and get to know personalities, for sure. Also, Dr. Beecher had some vacation time left, and she left early. So with my vacation time, I started to work here earlier. So, I was able to get settled.

Q. Give some of your first impressions?

ALAN SMITH: One of the reasons I accepted the position was that I was really impressed with the level of maintenance of the facilities here. Schools are expensive and we need to take care of what we have, and that has been done here. There is still some work to be done. There is still work at the high school and we have some potential issues at Songo Locks. But, what is currently here has been maintained very well, and speaks highly of the community and its pride in its schools. Also, I really felt welcomed. The night that I was hired, the applause and welcome were really, really nice. That doesn’t always happen. I was also pleased to see that my nomination was unanimous.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges you will tackle in your first year?

ALAN SMITH: I am still settling in as to what needs to be done. Certainly, the communication piece with parents and town fathers and managers is huge for me. This system, I believe, has the potential to grow. The only way for it to grow is to market ourselves. It’s a gorgeous area. Wonderful opportunities. We need to create connections between the school system and the communities. Where I came from, it was a rural area with a hospital. The first thing people did, when they were interested in moving there, was to visit every school. We want to show that same pride here, show the wonderful things we do for kids and our facilities. I am very approachable. I am out and about, and will be hopefully meeting with selectmen groups in September. I have an invitation to talk with the Chamber. The other pieces will come. No question, we have some educational challenges ahead and some state initiatives that will take some time to meet. We have great people that understand what needs to be done.

Q. Describe your philosophy and/or style as a superintendent?

ALAN SMITH: I am not one to duck a question. If someone has a question, I will answer it. I am pretty matter of fact. I’ll explain my answer. We are not always going to agree on that answer, but at least if they understand why I am doing it, it leads to understanding. I am always willing to have a conversation about the school system — what we do and what we plan to do. They can enlighten me. Anyone that can help me become more informed about the communities, I welcome that.

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time?

ALAN SMITH: I am an avid bird hunter. I have German short-haired pointers. I’ve trained them myself, and I’ll brag, they’re pretty good. I really enjoy that fall season (October), spending time out bird hunting. I don’t have a lot of hobbies. My family keeps me pretty busy. I have a daughter, who is entering her freshman year in college at Central Maine Community College; a daughter who will be entering her freshman year of high school. Mom is a special ed director. We’re all in the educational world right now. We bought a house in Poland.

Q. Impressions of the people you have met here?

ALAN SMITH: They are willing to open up to me, very welcoming and willing to chat. I thank everyone for giving me this opportunity.   

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