Hopewell Valley Regional School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas A. Smith received recognition from his peers when the Mercer County Association of School Administrators (MCASA) named him the 2018 Superintendent of the Year.
Since 2009, Smith has served as the district’s superintendent, making him one of the longest tenured district leaders in the county, according to the MCASA.
The organization said in its announcement that Smith’s “student-centered” style of leadership and implementation of new programs have since sparked discussions within the Hopewell Valley community and given the district “many examples of achievement in academics, the arts and athletics.”
“Dr. Smith is widely respected and highly regarded throughout the county and state. He is truly a student-centered educational leader who is passionate about his work and has served as a mentor to new superintendents,” West Windsor-Plainsboro Superintendent of Schools David Aderhold said. “Dr. Smith is an outstanding selection as Mercer’s Superintendent of the Year.”
Officials also praised Smith’s ability to get a $35 million bond referendum passed to help modernize the school district, as well as a “Call to Action” the superintendent established that aimed to bring awareness to mental health issues and teen suicide prevention.
“I think it’s no secret that we have a lot of kids who are struggling with mental health, and we wanted to take the stigma away,” Smith said. “We wanted to do this call to action and say, ‘It’s OK, if you need help, let us know and we’re going to help and provide resources for it.’ ”
Prior to receiving his Master’s degree in special education and educational administration from The College of New Jersey, Ewing, Smith earned his Bachelor’s degree in film and television. His switch in paths, he said, was sparked by working with the Special Olympics.
“I really made a connection with the students and people involved,” he said. “I was really looking for something that would make me feel like I was giving back to society.”
According to the MCASA, Smith began teaching in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District before moving to a district administrative position in the Spotswood School District in Middlesex County. He later returned to West Windsor-Plainsboro as an assistant superintendent prior to becoming Hopewell Valley’s superintendent.
Before Smith, the last educational leader to receive the title was Michael Nitti, of Ewing, in 2015. Smith said his recognition by MCASA was “gratifying.”
“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers, but you don’t do it for the recognition,” he said. “The support of the school board means a lot to me, the support from administrators means a lot to me more than any award.”