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New Bellevue Superintendent Promises Personalized Education

New Superintendent Robb Smith has big plans for the Bellevue School District­­­­ -- he wants to make this district the very best it can be.
 
To accomplish this, Smith intends to personalize the education of all the children who attend Grandview Elementary and Bellevue High School.
 
“I want all 720 students to be able to find a passion and pursue it,” said Smith. “I don’t like that education is competitive. Learning is personal, and it is up to us to remove the barriers so that students can find what they are passionate about. I want them to get up in the morning and want to come to school.”
 
Robb Smith is a local boy who grew up in Independence and attended Scott High School. He received his Bachelor’s and Masters degrees from Northern Kentucky University, and obtained his Rank 1 from Indiana University. He has almost completed his PhD from University of Louisville. Smith taught for five years at Woodland Middle School, and was principal at an Oldham County school for twelve years. From 2012 to 2014 he was Director of Secondary Education at Bullitt County Schools.
 
Smith and his wife Karin have four children, two boys and two girls, but two haven’t arrived yet in this country because they were adopted from the Congo. The family is eagerly awaiting the two new additions.
 
Being a superintendent has always been a goal, and Smith was willing to wait until the right job came along. Although he kept up with job postings, he said nothing quite felt right until he saw the opening for a superintendent in Bellevue.
 
“When that position came open, I knew it was right,” Smith stated. “It was a good fit for my skill set, and it was the right community. It was a wonderful reunion with Northern Kentucky. We always came back for visits but it feels very good to be back here.”
 
Smith was one of 41 applicants for the job of superintendent, and a screening committee started the process last January by narrowing the 41 down to six. By April, the five person board had interviewed all the candidates before deciding to hire Smith for the position.
 
“We interviewed two people a night, and budgeted a few extra days because we thought we would need the time to finally decide on one candidate,” said Dan Swope, Chair of the School Board. “However, when we all turned in a ballot with our top three candidates on the paper, it turned out that we all had Robb Smith as the top pick. It was unanimous -- ­­­he was number one.”
 
Swope went on to say that all the members were very impressed with Smith’s academic credentials and the fact that he was not worried about state scores, choosing instead to focus on teaching to increase scores.
 
“Smith is very charismatic, and we felt he was pretty much the total package,” Swope said with a chuckle. “Really, it was a no-brainer. He knocked it out of the park.”
 
One of the first things Smith did was to set out his goals in a superintendent’s message which is on the Bellevue School Board website.
 
“I think what everyone in the community wants is to be a part of their child’s educational process,” explained Smith. “They want to have a voice in it. It is a big challenge to build trust and have all interest groups come together, but that is what I want to do. I want to facilitate growth. Historically, Bellevue has done pretty well on tests, but has taken a dip in the last two years. I want to put in the time to improve the scores, but I also want to give the kids the skills to be successful. If what I do isn’t successful I will own it, but I believe the programs I put in place will make a vast difference in both the students and the scores.”
 
Smith said he is actively developing an apprentice program in the high school so that students can have a choice of multiple career pathways. He is not cowed by the common core regimen.
 
“You have to make the curriculum work for you,” said Smith. “To me one set of standards is as arbitrary as another. It is just a framework, it doesn’t dictate how you teach the kids.”
 
The atmosphere at both schools, Grandview and Bellevue High School, is that of safety, love and caring. He wants the academic atmosphere to be engaging for the students, one that is not tied to bells, and tends to put the students in real time.
 
“I don’t want the students to be extrinsically motivated, as when they study because they have a test,” Smith stated. “I want them to be intrinsically motivated, with a desire to learn. You can’t quantify passion. The possibilities are endless.”
 
Story & photo by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor