Chandler Smith is the epitome of the data-driven principal able to dissect information by looking at a student’s needs, strengths and weaknesses. In his three years as principal of Plaquemine High school, Smith has gained a reputation for motivating and inspiring those around him. He treats each student, teacher and staffer as a special person and acts as a mentor to develop their potential.
When Smith became principal, the school had just completed its first year working with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) to increase educator effectiveness and improve student achievement growth. NIET specializes in initiatives that create systems for teacher leadership and support.
Smith and his leadership team quickly identified a goal: to raise the quality of instruction in the classroom. There needed to be a cultural shift to higher expectations, engagement and quality—all of which would be measured through accountability. In collaboration with the leadership team, Smith created six different pathways for students to choose from leading to an Industry-Based Certification (IBC) as well as a diploma. The pathways are manufacturing; health science; business; government (JROTC); information technology; and advanced studies (university).
Smith’s knowledge, disposition and actions have directly influenced the instructional practices and student performance at PHS. Posters were displayed at the entrance of the school listing the courses for each pathway. Smith wanted the students entering PHS to have the answer to the question, “What do I need to do and take to graduate?” This gave the students personal goals and a purpose for coming to school. There was a rise in the graduation rate (59% to 75%) and increased attendance.
Under his leadership, PHS was in the top 20% of schools in Louisiana with the most growth in overall student proficiency from 2011-12 and in the top 15% from 2012-13 to 2013-14. More students are taking the ACT and scores are improving. There is a “data wall” that tracks every student’s progress.
During his short tenure as principal, Smith has already accomplished much. He was a panelist for U.S. Department of Education regional state meetings on reading and one of 100 principals selected to the Louisiana Principal Fellowship, a 16-month program designed to give school leaders the critical knowledge and skills to be instructional leaders and improve student achievement.
Smith’s personal goal is to begin work on a Ph.D. in administration and supervision. He graduated from Leavell College with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian education in 2004 and received a master’s in educational leadership from Louisiana State University in 2007.