Smith builds future retirement plan

Martin Garcia

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Principal Deb Smith’s retirement will mark the end of the reign of the second principal at the school.

Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) separated from Birmingham High School back in 2009 when Birmingham became a charter school. DPMHS’ first principal was Janet Kiddoo. Three years later, Smith took her place with new visions to increase the low enrollment and culture of the small school.

“One of the things that I was really hoping to do was to see the school enrollment increase enough that we were really secure with teachers,” Smith said. “We did do that one year (2013-2014), but then weren’t able to hold onto the number of kids. It’s been difficult to get enough attention over charters in the area.”

When Smith became principal, she wanted to increase the school’s enrollment and have it reach at least the minimum for norm day, 340 students. The enrollment would help give the school a bigger budget, which Smith wanted to use to bring in new electives and keep the ones we had. This includes this and last year’s robotics class with Mark Gendernalik and the continued piano and choir classes with music teacher Wes Hambright, who Smith hired after the previous music teacher left DPMHS.

Smith also accepted a Regional Occupational Program that offered to bring broadcasting classes under video production teacher Mark Middlebrook, which started Pearl Net News. Smith has been very supportive of journalism at DPMHS.

“If (the new principal is) smart, they will recognize Freedom of Press is a right of this country.,” Smith said. “I trust fantastic Ms. Chavira will keep you (journalists) out of trouble.”

Smith regrets she couldn’t achieve all of her goals for the school, but her 41 years of experience in education and especially handling behavioral issues has earned her respect from school faculty.

“These past four years I’ve learned so much,” Magnet Coordinator Leah Pevar said. “She has not hesitated to share wisdom, thoughts, ideas and methods of dealing with things you don’t deal with in the classroom. I’m going to be so sad but grateful that I got to work with her.”

During summer and winter, Smith plans on living in Mammoth Mountain, California, where she’ll teach skiing, biking and kayaking lessons to disabled military veterans from the Wounded Warriors Project.

“I think I’ll be grateful for some rest,” Smith said. “I think in the summer I won’t really care because it’s summer and it’s summertime. But when school opens in the fall, it’ll be really different to not come back to work.”  

Smith has emailed Local District Superintendent Joseph Nacorda qualities she’d like to see in the school’s next principal, such as valuing teachers and having an open door policy with students and faculty. But besides the news she will get from faculty at DPMHS and the Pearl Net News and The Pearl Post social media accounts, she will remain largely disconnected from the school.

“We’re both going to be leaving,” senior and Student Body President Zachary Gephart-Canada said. “My entire experience here will be with her as principal, so I don’t really know anything else. It’ll be interesting to see next year, who the new principal is and how kids adapt to that. But I’ve been lucky to have one principal and have it be a good one.”

When asked if journalism could be affected by a new principal, Smith said: “If they’re smart, they will recognize Freedom of Press is a right of this country. I trust fantastic Ms. Chavira will keep you out of trouble.”

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