Though he will be walking on the riverfront on occasion, as I speculated Dr. Howard Smith would be doing , he won't be there all the time.
Neither will he be “sitting on the deck chair all day,” said our TUFSD superintendent. Smith announced last week to school staff that he would be saying goodbye after finishing out one more school year here.
That rounds out a 12-year term, which Smith said is long in the life of a superintendent. Most superintendents stick around for a national average of less than four years, he said. Smith's term makes him one of the most senior supers in the region.
Though he planned to give it two more years and retire at the age of 62, he decided for a confluence of reasons to wrap up sooner at the age of 61. “I do qualify for the same incentive that was offered to all the retiring faculty,” he said, “but that really wasn't the deciding factor.”
Smith said it's a cyclical job and he saw himself nearing the end his cycle. Perhaps, he said, it's best now for someone with a different perspective to address the issues that seem to have him feeling a bit beaten down by the system. “I work for the community, I work for the school,” he said, “but more and more I was being made to feel by the State Education Department like I work for them.”
Smith spoke of the mandates coming down from Albany and D.C., in which , seem entrapped. “Schools are really being driven by agendas from afar. And it seems to be more politically driven than education driven. It's probably time for someone to bring new positive energy to this next chapter in education.”
As far as his own plans? “That's the fun part,” he said, referring to a year he will have both to ease out and to make his own plans, which won't be to “retire retire,” mind you. Smith said he's interested in the nonprofit sector and exploring opportunities there. He wouldn't mind consulting in areas of public schooling that “appeal to me.”
Humans have a longer life span these days, so assuming continued good health, that's could be another 30 years of plans ahead of him, the equivalent of a “whole working life,” Smith said. He's not about to stop working, entirely. In addition to traveling, seeing his two kids and one grandkid more (between NYC and Burlington, Vermont where he keeps a little place with his wife), he is enjoying the prospect of working not out of obligation but desire.
For many, retirement can be “agonizing,” Smith said, because their identity is so bound up in their career. But “I don't see it as an end point, just an opportunity to do something different.”
In his long career in education, Smith said his job as superintendent here in our TUFSD was “probably the one I've loved the most.”
And he won't leave it high and dry. A year is a long lead time, as District Clerk Nelly Valentin said, and Smith has offered the Board his involvement in the replacement process as much as they like. The Board would retain a specialized search consultant, he said. The job would likely go to someone who is already a superintendent elsewhere, but anything's possible. "You never know who might present themselves."