Special ed teacher now vice principal in Turners Falls

  • Kathi Smith is the new vice principal at Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School in Montague. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

Staff writer
Published: 9/12/2018 11:11:14 PM

MONTAGUE — With just a few weeks under her belt as the new Vice Principal of Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School, Kathi Smith said is adjusting well. Previously, she was, since 2011, a special education teacher in the district.

Smith said she seeks to create a safe positive school atmosphere and feels her experience as a special education teacher in the middle school as well as ninth and tenth grade will be an asset.

“Some of the kids already know me, so that helps, I’m not usually in the office, I try to be out interacting with them,” Smith said. “I hope to be able to familiarize myself with the community, the stakeholders.”

Gill Montague School District Superintendent Michael Sullivan said Smith was selected by a search committee that reviewed over 25 candidates.

“Kathi has been a special education teacher in the district since 2011 and she is highly regarded by peers and parents as an excellent educator who puts the needs of students first,” Sullivan said. “I look forward to working with Kathi as a member of our administrative team and I believe she has a skill set well matched to serving the needs of our students and staff.”

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Principal Annie Leonard, said she is thrilled to have Smith as vice principal.

“She has a unique ability to move back and forth between those big picture initiatives and the day-to-day dealings of an assistant principal: supporting students who are in difficulty, helping maintain positive learning environments in our classrooms, problem-solving with staff, and the like,” Leonard said. “She is off to a running start!”

With about a month under her belt, Smith said she strives to be out of her office often – so she can interact with students, faculty and staff both in the high school and middle school.

Smith said though she is still getting adjusted to her new role, it’s not entirely unfamiliar. Before coming to the Gill Montague School district, Smith served as special education administrator for the NEARI School in Holyoke for eight years.

Smith has taken leadership roles in the school, as well, serving as secondary level special education department chair, Resilient Schools Initiative coordinator, member of the Powertown in the 21st century team and member of the high school advisory committee. 

“Last year, our middle and high school started an initiative call the Resilience School Initiative Team which has worked on building student and adult resilience and social emotional skills,” Smith said. “One of the activities we chose to pilot this year is a mindfulness program called ‘inner explorer.’”

Teachers from pre-K through 12th grade can participate in the program, which Smith said she aims to continue to support as vice principal.

Smith said she wants parents in the community to get to know her and feel comfortable reaching out to her.

“I really love working in this community, I want people to feel comfortable reaching out to me,” Smith said. “Don’t hesitate to call with questions or concerns. I’m an approachable person.”


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