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May 15, 2013

Vision to be ‘the best’

Smith approved as DHS principal

DUNCAN — For the Duncan High School, the 2013-14 school year will be a sizable transition year. And one of the most noticeable changes will be the change in high school principal.

Justin Smith, DHS assistant principal, will be taking over the principal’s position, following the retirement of Gary Reed. Reed is set to retire July 10, with 37 years of service to Duncan Public Schools. The Duncan Board of Education approved Smith as the new high school principal during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Smith has been assistant principal for 1 1/2 years, having been promoted from academic coach in January 2012. At that point, Smith took over the position vacated when Janice Gay became principal of Horace Mann Elementary.

“It was a good transition,” he said. “Being academic coach, I learned a lot about Common Core coming. Being in the teachers’ classrooms, I got to know all of them.”

As an academic coach, Smith found himself groomed to be a high school principal, despite the majority of his teaching years spent in elementary education.

In his position as assistant principal, Smith has handled discipline, teacher evaluations and this year, added site maintenance. As principal, Smith will also be in charge of managing the assistant principals, while making more financially driven decisions.

“Mr. Reed has been great,” Smith said. “He’s been letting me get my feet wet by attending principal meetings.”

Reed has been high school principal for nearly seven years, taking the position in the summer of 2006, following the departure of Shelly Lovelace. Prior to that, he was assistant principal for nine years.

Smith has 16 years of experience in education, seven of which took place in Texas. Two years were spent at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, during the transition of principals Bud Conway and Carol Phipps, as they switched elementary schools.

“Duncan has been great about professional development,” Smith said. “When I became a principal, I hadn’t thought about being a high school principal.

“I’ve learned a lot. I still have a lot to learn.”

He said life is a never-ending learning experience. And his transition to principal will just be another opportunity for growth.

His first year comes as Duncan High School’s campus undergoes construction and renovation, thanks to a bond issue passed by voters. This work, while making the year a bit chaotic and interesting to work around, will also work toward Smith’s goal of having the high school noticed for its achievements.

One of his goals is to have the high school recognized as a top school in the United States.

“I think we will still have a successful year,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to stress flexibility.”

But being a top high school in the country isn’t the only thing Smith would like to see for Duncan High School.

“I have a visual of Duncan High School being one of the best high schools in the country,” Smith said. “I want the transition to Common Core to be successful. I want to add more AP classes and increase rigor.

“The administration for Duncan Public Schools from the top down has been great. The people around you are what make you good.”

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