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Hopewell Valley school board officially begins search for new superintendent; Smith announces retirement

The Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education is searching for a new superintendent after the announced retirement of current Superintendent Thomas Smith.

The school board approved an ad hoc Superintendent Search Committee to help identify the district’s next superintendent and plan to include as many district stakeholders in the process through surveys and focus groups.

“At this point in time, the search committee’s main focus is collecting stakeholder input,” Board President Deborah Linthorst said.

A community survey was already made available to the public through May 14.

One of the questions included in the survey asked individuals to select five key characteristics they felt are most important in the district’s next superintendent.

“The search committee will be meeting with district employee stakeholder groups over the course of the next two weeks to gather additional feedback,” Linthorst said. “We are currently making determinations with regard to the retention of consultants and on the timeframe for naming a new superintendent.”

The position of superintendent in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) was posted on May 12.

“Interested candidates must submit their resume and related materials no later than June 4,” Linthorst added.

Smith has led the HVRSD administration for 12 years and is now set to be the new superintendent of the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“I think the pandemic has really forced us all to re-evaluate. I think we have done some very good things in Hopewell Valley that I am really proud of,” Smith said. “For me, as I look to the future, I am looking for the next challenge. Pennsbury is larger and just a different demographic and I think there is an opportunity for me to do great work professionally.”

Smith had not been actively searching for another superintendent position over the last year.

“It was just a position that someone had reached out to me about. I was not looking. I love Hopewell,” Smith added. “There was just an opportunity that just presented itself, which caused me to think and the opportunity happened relatively quickly. I was certainly not actively searching.

“I have really enjoyed my time here and my children have been coming to plays and sporting events since they were toddlers,” he said.

Smith said he is looking at targeting his retirement for the end of July. Smith wants to make sure the district is in a good place when the school board starts the interviewing process.

“Then I will transition out,” Smith said. “Hopewell has been a huge part of my life and that of my family. I am really proud of what we have accomplished here, but I know we have a lot of people who have dedicated themselves to continuing this work. Hopewell is going to be in a good place for many years to come.”

When Smith reflects on his time at the helm of the district administration, he said he is proudest of the district’s efforts regarding equity, raising awareness around student mental health, and passing the referendum for facilities.

“Passing that referendum was huge for us in kind of retooling our schools. The school board has been supportive on so many initiatives,” he said. “Thinking back to re-evaluating homework and being one of the first districts to go one-to-one with everyone having a Chromebook. The board was incredibly supportive for that. Those are some of the big ones, but there are a lot of things I really am proud of.”

Some of the challenges Smith had to face in his tenure as superintendent included the pandemic and the district’s decreasing enrollment.

“There is potential for increasing enrollment. It is not fun to let staff go to meet decreasing enrollment,” he said. “Other than that I think where it is a positive and a negative are challenges facing equity in our district and student mental health. We have made a lot of progress, but there are still a lot of challenges our students face on a daily basis.”

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