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Edgecombe honors top principal

112917EECHS-Smith

Edgecombe Early College High School Principal Matt Smith on Thursday at the school.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The principal of Edgecombe Early College High School has been named the 2018-19 Principal of the Year for Edgecombe County Public Schools.

Matt Smith, who is serving his fifth year as principal of the school, said he is humbled by the honor.

“There are so many visionary leaders in our county, so many innovators, so many humanitarians. I do not see Principal of the Year as an award or recognition for my own accomplishments. I see it as an opportunity to represent all of the leaders in Edgecombe County Public Schools and to shine a light on our collective mission to lift all kids up,” Smith said.

Before being selected as a Principal of the Year for a school district, principals are judged on many criteria. Each is expected to merit the respect and admiration of students, teachers and other professional coworkers, parents and members of his or her community. Involvement in the community as well as in school activities is also considered. Candidates are expected to provide opportunities for academic achievement to a diverse student population, according to a press release from the school district.

"Mr. Smith is a stellar educator with an exemplar history in our school district. He has served as a high school English teacher at Tarboro High School and completed his principal internship at SouthWest Edgecombe High School,” said Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools. “I cannot think of a more deserving educator.”

Smith was chosen by a community panel of stakeholders and will represent Edgecombe County Public Schools in a regional competition with hopes of becoming the Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. Since 1984, Wells Fargo Bank has financially supported the program in collaboration with the state Department of Public Instruction to recognize outstanding principals from North Carolina public schools.

Smith is a former N.C. Teaching Fellow and graduated from Appalachian State University in 1994. After attending graduate school at Wake Forest University, Smith spent about two years working as an editorial assistant for the National Science Resource Center at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

He and his wife April, who is also a former teaching fellow, returned to North Carolina in 1997 to begin their teaching careers.

“We fell in love with the community of Tarboro and Edgecombe County,” Smith said. “April and I taught in the English Department at Tarboro High for 16 years, where we truly felt the impact that community support, amazing teachers and a common mission can have upon school success.”

Smith began training with the NorthEast Leadership Academy in 2012 and completed a year-long administrative internship at SouthWest Edgecombe in the 2013-14 academic year, serving under the direction of then-principal Marc Whichard, who is now  assistant superintendent of the school district. The following year, he was hired as principal of Edgecombe County Early College High School.

During his tenure as principal, the high school has enjoyed phenomenal success, rating an A on every school report card since the state began issuing them and achieving a 100 percent graduation rate for the past three years. Edgecombe Early College High School is now ranked as one of the top high schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

However, Smith said he is most proud of the school’s family culture.

“Family is in our mission statement. It's not just a metaphor — it's how we view each other and our work,” Smith said. “Every teacher we hire is joining a family. Every scholar who enrolls at our school is joining a family. I am the ‘school dad’ at Edgecombe Early College High School — and like any father, I am proud of my family.”

As far as future goals, Smith said his current job is hard to top.

“Serving as principal at the Early College is the next best thing to my dream job of being headmaster at Hogwarts,” he said.

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