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Local principal receives top honor

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Edgecombe Early College High School Principal Matt Smith, left, shares a laugh with juniors Abdur Gant, 17, right, and Katelyn Lee, 17, while chatting with them during their lunch break Monday at the school in Tarboro.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Edgecombe County Public Schools has a new reason to boast as its Principal of the Year has been named Regional Principal of the Year for the North Central Region of North Carolina.

Matt Smith, principal of Edgecombe Early College High School in Tarboro, is the first Edgecombe County principal to advance to this honor. The North Central Region includes the Capitol area, Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools and school districts in Chatham, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren and Wilson counties.

“I am honored and humbled to serve the students, families and staff of Edgecombe County Public Schools and to represent the 15 counties in our North Central Region, but this work is not about me. It's about us. It's about our kids and our future. I could not be more excited about the innovation taking place in eastern N.C., the sense of promise and possibility and the amazing educators that are making dreams come true for our kids,” Smith said in a press release issued by Edgecombe County Public Schools.

In a later interview with the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Tarboro Weekly, Smith said he considers the honor the result of a team effort.

“Being named Regional Principal of the Year is a team win, not an individual honor,” Smith said. “I work with amazing leaders, educators and family who are driven by a relentless desire to help our kids reach their potential. This honor represents the amazing work, collaboration and energy of Edgecombe County Public Schools, not of just Matt Smith.”

The Edgecombe Early College High School, which has been led by Smith since 2014, has achieved an A rating and a 100 percent graduation rate for the past several years. The school has also received national attention, earning a bronze medal and a place on the 2018 national ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

Smith said he still sees work to be done at the high school.

“We have so much great work ahead of us,” he said. “One special project that I am eager to help grow is our Scholar Teachers Program, which is a talent-development initiative designed to help high school students who want to become teachers come back to Edgecombe County to launch their careers. This initiative will impact every aspect of our community, including families, the business community and our school system.

“I am truly excited by the potential of Scholar Teachers to transform our teacher recruitment pipeline in Edgecombe County Public Schools.”

Smith, who was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, graduated from Appalachian State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in English secondary education. He is also a graduate of N.C. State University, where he earned a master’s degree in school administration through the Northeast Leadership Academy.

He previously taught English at Tarboro High School for 15 years and completed his administrative internship at SouthWest Edgecombe High School under the mentorship of Marc Whichard. He is serving his fifth year as the principal of Edgecombe Early College High School, according to the press release.

As regional principal of the year, Smith will compete with seven other regional finalists from across the state for the title of 2019 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. That winner will be announced in March.

NOTE: This article has been edited to correct the date when Smith began serving as principal of the Edgecombe Early College High School.

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