Meet our Administrators: Kristi Smith
Position: Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools and Teaching and Learning
Years in Education: 28
Years at Clover Park: 5
Kristi Smith was named Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools and Teaching and Learning this school year after four years leading the teaching and learning department. Prior to joining Clover Park School District, Kristi spent 14 years as an elementary school principal in South Kitsap School District.
What attracted you to a career in education?
I really love kids and want to support them. I know education is a way students can move forward regardless of their background. it's one thing nobody can take away from them. I know that sometimes kids that come from underprivileged backgrounds aren't given a rigorous education, so I really wanted to be able to impact that and help push those kids so they have a chance to achieve whatever they want to do.
Where did you grow up and how did you end up here at CPSD?
I grew up in the South Kitsap area, so that's one of the reasons I had a job there. I wanted to make a difference for the families of kids I knew growing up. I eventually wanted to make a move from being a building principal to the district level and Clover Park was one of the places I was looking at. My husband is from the Clover Park area and went to school here. That just made working here real and meaningful to me.
How do your 14 years of experience as an elementary principal help inform your current job in overseeing them?
Elementary principals are often alone in their job, so my experience helps me better understand what they need. It’s essential to have someone they can collaborate with — I saw a lot of things in my 14 years in that role in terms of students, curriculum issues, supporting and connecting with parents and the community and increasing achievement. I led what was considered to be a pretty low achieving school and by the time I left, it was one of the highest achieving schools in our district and won two national Title I awards and five school of distinction awards.
Where did you go to college and how did those experiences help you get here?
I got my undergraduate degree at Pacific Lutheran University. I gained a great deal of internship and practicum experience in the Pierce County area and learned what kind of district I wanted to work in. I got my master's degree at the University of Portland in educational leadership and went to University of Puget Sound to get my principal and administrative credential. Most of my education was local and I wanted to make a difference where I grew up.
What has surprised you most about working in education?
I guess one of the biggest surprises is the number of pieces to it. Certainly when you start out you think about education and school being just the classroom. When you're a principal you think about how you can support what's happening in the classroom but you always have your mind on your school and your community. The longer you spend in the system, the more you realize there's so many different pieces and stakeholders and areas that need support.
What motivates you to do what you do?
It's all about supporting kids. Both sets of my grandparents were immigrants, and they talked to me extensively as I was growing up about the difference that education made in their lives and the impact of coming into school as a newcomer to the country. Education was so important to them. They helped put me through college even though they couldn't go to college. You can see the difference it makes for kids who have those opportunities.
How can you help create promising futures from your position?
It's about helping principals and teachers make connections with families and community. That's something that often gets underutilized. Encouraging that and talking about ways we can continue to do that, I think that's really where you start to reach a tipping point to make a more impactful difference.
What is the best part of your job?
I get to be out in schools. That's why I got into education. It's great to be out in the classroom and out in the schools every week and talking to kids about what they like and the things they're excited about.
What are your hobbies?
I like to spend lots of time with my family. I have a husband who is an educator as well, so we spend time doing school-type things. I like to go to my son's athletic events and school events. I have a tight knit family and enjoy spending time with them.
As a child of two educators, how was your life shaped by their careers?
That had a huge impact. It wasn't just that my dad was a high school teacher and my mom was a kindergarten teacher. Educators tend to hang around with more educators. There is a culture around education that creates a supportive environment. I had lots of parenting and adult support growing up as a result.