SHHS Principal Dan Smith to retire after 33 years in district

by Town Reminder

SHHS Principal Dan Smith to retire after 33 years in district

By Scott Feldman
Turley Publications Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – South Hadley High School Principal Dan Smith will retire at the close of the school year, ending a career in education that has spanned more than three decades.
This announcement was made by Superintendent Gus Sayer at the School Committee meeting on Feb. 23. During the announcement, Sayer expressed his appreciation for all of the work that Smith has put in for the students and faculty in the high school.
“Dan is without a doubt one of the finest principals that I have had the opportunity to work with in the last 30 years,” Sayer said. “He has done an extraordinary job in my opinion as the leader of the high school.”
Smith explained in a press release and the high school’s monthly newsletter his decision on Wednesday, stating although there is never an ideal time for a principal to retire, he felt it made sense to do so before the start of the next New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) self-study.
The NEASC self-study is a two-year process where a school compares itself to education standards set by the NEASC. Smith wrote that having a new principal at the beginning of this evaluation will allow his replacement the best opportunity to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the school.
The end of Smith’s tenure was marred by the suicide of South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince, after she was allegedly bullied by peers. Her death and the circumstances surrounding it became an internationally known news story and sparked the creation of new anti-bullying legislation in Massachusetts and across the nation.
Although the negative attention the case brought on South Hadley undoubtedly wore on him, Smith denies that that the incident played a role in his retirement.
“I understand there is some speculation as to whether my retirement is at all related to the Prince tragedy. I can unequivocally state that my retirement decision is not related in any way,” Smith wrote in his statement.
He declined to grant any interviews, stating he wishes to focus his attention on his last few months at South Hadley High.
Sayer was disappointed to see Smith leave, but wished him well in his future endeavors.
“He will be very difficult to replace,” Sayer said. “It is always difficult to replace a high school principal. It is in my opinion one of the toughest jobs in education there is.”
When Sayer was asked if he felt that the Phoebe Prince situation caused Smith to retire, he said that Smith had stated his reasons in his letter and did not want to speculate on his decision making process. He did note that everyone in South Hadley, whether they are students, teachers, administrators or residents, has been affected by the Prince tragedy.
Sayer said that the process to find a replacement principal is underway. The job opening will be posted on several employment websites and will be advertised throughout Massachusetts.
A screening committee consisting of a mixture of students, faculty, residents and a school committee member will be put together to review applications and select the top three candidates. Sayer will lead the finalists through a tour of the schools and conduct personal interviews with him or her before making the final hiring decision.
Sayer said he would prefer the next principal to have a background in education within Massachusetts so they can understand the unique challenges and issues of the area, although exceptions could be made if a candidate has exceptional qualifications. He is hopeful that he will have a new principal chosen by the end of April.