Kevin Smith, now in his fourth year as principal in Duplin County, is passionate about his work at Duplin Early College High School. He holds high expectations for the school and its students -- and he works to ensure that those around him share the same standards.
"I believe this school can be the best in our state and in our nation. I don't settle for less than that," Smith says. "I want our school to be a beacon of light in our community."
After Smith's first year as principal of a redesigned STEM school on the campus of a comprehensive high school, the school converted to become Duplin ECHS on the campus of James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville. Smith credits significant parent support for helping to create a strong school for their community. As an early college with a STEM focus, Duplin ECHS works to incorporate "strategies that engage the mind" in every classroom to help students become engaged in the learning process.
For the current school year, Smith and his teachers have focused specifically on powerful teaching and learning as a key Design Principle. "We're making a lot of progress because of commitment from staff to be the best we can be," Smith says. "We still have a way to go, but we have a plan to get there and we're committed to making that plan happen."
By providing teachers with time to engage in discussions about powerful teaching and learning, Smith is able facilitate those conversations and lead by influence to be sure the school is on the right track.
"I can't force specific change. My responsibility is to lay out the vision and make it possible for teachers to get on board," Smith says. "I think our teachers have more instructional freedom here. I trust them to be the experts in their fields, to be creative about how they cover the curriculum within the Common Instructional Framework."
Smith earned degrees from UNC Wilmington, first as a NC Teaching Fellow and later as a NC Principal Fellow. He taught high school math for four years in Pender County and served as an assistant principal in elementary and middle schools for four years before becoming a principal.