David Smith

Job: Superintendent, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.

Hometown: Evansville

His Story: In July 2011, Smith began his first month heading the third largest public school corporation in Indiana. He replaces a departing Vince Bertram, who crafted a new strategic plan for EVSC. That vision included a new junior high and high school on the North Side. The junior high school opens this August.

His Résumé: Smith began his 29-year career at EVSC as a band and orchestra manager at Bosse High School. Most recently, he was the assistant superintendent for human resources and business affairs.
His Perspective: “I don’t read the blogs because anybody can hide behind a screen name,” Smith says. “What has been incredibly meaningful: My wife was kind enough to count the (signed) cards when the letters came in. She stopped at 300. That’s the blessing.”

When Helfrich Park opened its doors back in 1965, I was in that kindergarten class. I was the first class to go all the way through and then went to Reitz High School. I actually stayed in town and went to the University of Evansville.

I always heard growing up with my folks that you need to leave this place better than you found it. What drives me is that hopefully in every position I’ve had with EVSC, I’ve left it better than I found it. I certainly intend to do the same thing with my career as a superintendent.

I was a high school band and orchestra manager at Bosse High School. I remember having 56 kids in the entire program when I started. They had about 1,300 in Bosse at the time. When I left Bosse 11 years later, we had about 135 kids in the marching band with about 900 in the school.

But it never has been about me. I learned early on that if you surround yourself with outstanding people, good things happen.

If teachers think they are there just for the subject, I would suggest, “No, you’re there to mold good adults. You’re there to help mold kids to be the very best person they can possibly be.” It doesn’t have to be at a public school or a private school, but anybody that works with youth to help people have the tools to succeed later in life is my hero.

I received Teacher of the Year on Feb. 27, 1992. That banquet opened several doors for me because the superintendent was there and was very anxious to contact me later and say, “You really might want to consider administration.” Then I had a couple other principals who said that. Years later, I had a good friend who passed away from cancer, and I thought if I’m ever going to do this, I probably should do this now. I went to Indiana State University and obtained my certification and was blessed to be assistant principal and then principal. I didn’t really have any aspirations to do anything else, and then I got a phone call to come Downtown. I’ve really just been blessed that people have just seen what I do and think I could do maybe a little bit more. And here I am.

The community as a whole had a feeling that there was a school corporation and then there was everything and everybody else. Those barriers definitely have been broken down. One thing that has been hugely rewarding over the last three weeks was that I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many community members, many different entities. I really thought I understood the collaborative effort we were blessed to have in Evansville, but there was no way that I understood the depth and breadth of that collaborative spirit. I have yet to have an entity say anything other than, “We’re here to help, and we want to make certain that our public schools succeed.” That is incredibly gratifying. I think Vince Bertram certainly deserves the credit for that because I hope that the school corporation would not intentionally shut anyone out because we can’t do this by ourselves.

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