Larry Smith has officially retired from the Sapulpa School District where he has been serving as deputy superintendent of schools the past four years.
Over coffee recently, Smith told Sapulpa News & Views that education is constantly in the news — and for good reason. There’s the state budget shortfall, testing or no testing debates, vouchers, consolidation and it seems a hundred other issues. But with all of that there also is a lot of mis-information out there — something Smith refers to as “smoke.”
Smith came to Sapulpa from Tulsa Public Schools after long-time co-worker Kevin Burr assumed the Sapulpa superintendent’s post.
“We had often talked about working together to implement programs like these unfolding at Sapulpa,” Smith said.
So with retirement, is Smith stepping away from education? Not quite. That would be too hard for someone who has spent his whole life doing school. With the exception of a couple of short periods when Smith thought he should pursue other opportunities, he has been a student or educator and always studying and advancing education. That is not likely to stop,
Smith recently turned 62. The retirement option offered him an opportunity to take care of some needs — like helping secure his aging parents — and some recreational time or maybe catching up on some golfing and fishing.
He likes both those sports and even has a plan for developing a bass lure concept.
“The timing was just right,” Smith said.
The early retirement does mean some extra dollars for an impacted local school budget that could prevent someone one else from being cut. He may have thought about that.
Meanwhile, other school staff are stepping to the plate. Smith’s duties are being distributed among a half-dozen or so of them and he is helping with the transition.
Smith represents five generations of educators. Before moving into administration after earning his master’s degree at Northeastern, he was a coach and classroom teacher. His wife, Jan is still working in the Tulsa system. They have two children, twins, freshmen in college — daughter at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and son at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology at Okmulgee.
Smith noted that every child is different — even if they are twins. He holds to that philosophy across the board. One of the problems of putting too much emphasis on a day of student testing — “one snapshot,” Smith says is that the best interest of the student being educated may be hurt. One size does not fit all.
“Blindly accepting test results is a problem,” Smith said. “Not nearly enough time is spent on what we are assessing . . . what kids know, and when did they learn it.”
Smith is a strong proponent of reading development programs as a means of getting students to right levels of knowing.
Holding kids back, adding school days, etc., may be some of the solution, Smith believes, but “we have to be “doing things on the front end”, not after there is a crisis.
“People already are giving me lists of things to do,” Smith joked of his retirement plans.
Add to that list something we have asked Smith to do for local media. We wanted to talk to Smith about all the things we’re hearing about education and the “current crisis.” What are patrons, parents, grandparents — patrons — to do, what can they do?
We have asked Smith to consider a regular column or a series of articles. Stay tuned. Maybe you even have a question.