Alabama ASCD

A Clear Focus for a New Principal

Meet Tommy Smitherman. He is the new principal at Locust Fork High School in Blount County. He has a million emails. He has a thousand things on his to-do list. Most importantly, he has a clear focus. Mr. Smitherman has not  allowed the overwhelming demands of his new job to keep him from taking care of his number one priority, his students.  Since becoming the leader of LFHS in August of 2015, this young administrator has taken several steps to ensure that the students from his community have their present and future needs met.

Over 40% of the school’s students live in a household where the income is less than $20,000 a year. The goal for all students, regardless of background, is the same: graduate them ready for college, career, or college and career. The principal has taken the lead in making post-high school opportunities visible to students. He has personally driven groups of students to various four-year universities in Alabama. The purpose is to introduce high-schoolers to a campus that they may not have considered previously. The trips have been successful with several participants returning to school to immediately apply to the universities.

Mr. Smitherman has also led efforts to increase extra-curricular opportunities for all students. Under his leadership, the teachers at LFHS have developed a “club” schedule that allows for students to participate in a variety of activities. Drama, art, and gardening are just a few examples of the small groups that are being offered each Friday. In a school with limited elective courses, these weekly meetings provide students with options to explore their own interests. Most importantly, students are able to connect with peers and the school through common interests that otherwise would not be available. Creating a place where students feel that they belong and are accepted is a priority for Mr. Smitherman and his staff.

As educators we realize that each student has basic needs that must be met, among them are proper clothing. Currently, Tommy is working to establish a clothes closet within the school.  Counselors, teachers, and administrators will have an immediate resource to utilize when they see a student in need. Having a discreet process for providing everything from shoes for PE to ties for graduation will no doubt impact the everyday lives of students.

There is no question that the day-to-day demands of being a new principal are extensive and complicated. Yet, the mission of Mr. Tommy Smitherman remains simple: keep students first, a belief that he models for his community and staff daily.

Jodie Jacobs

Locus Fork High School, Blount County Schools

Author: Alabama ASCD

Alabama affiliate of ASCD and CLAS

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