The son of a Burlington, Iowa, factory worker who started teaching second graders and now is responsible for 22 schools with 22,000 students in Virginia is one of five contenders to lead the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system.
Marty K. Smith is an assistant superintendent of the Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools, responsible for a cluster of three high schools, three middle schools, and 16 elementary schools.
As one of the finalists in the search for a new superintendent of District 65 schools to replace Hardy Murphy, who resigned just before this school year began last August, Smith would lead a district that serves nearly 7,000 pupils in three middle schools, 10 elementary schools, two magnet schools, and a share of a school for special-needs students.
Smith was introduced to the parents and community members at the fifth and final forum for the contenders Friday night at King Lab.
A believer in “the power of people and the power of relationships,” Smith contends that “with the right supports, all students can be successful.”
His recipe for making inroads against the achievement gap between white and black students is to ”set expectations high for all students.”
One way to do that, he said, is to consider expanding early childhood education, including working with pre-schools in the area in terms of guidelines and curriculum so that there is less disparity among kids when they enter the public school system.
As he made visitations to several schools in the district before his appearance Friday, Smith said he was impressed with the extent to which students are involved in arts education.
“There are more students wanting to join the band at Haven,” he noted, “than there are slots available.”
A diverse faculty is important as well, he said, “as students need to see teachers that look like them.”
Now that all five of the finalists have met with faculty, administrators, and the public, the District 65 Board is hopeful that community stakeholders will communicate their opinions of the five to aid the board in making its decision, which is expected to come next month.
The board’s timeline calls for having the new superintendent on board this summer in order that he or she can participate in strategic planning for the district before the new school year resumes in August.
Complete biographical information for each of the five finalists is available on the district's website.