Brian Smith will become the new head of school at First Presbyterian Day School in June 2018. Smith grew up in Blountville, TN. He attended King College (now King University), where he was graduated with a bachelor’s in English. He also has a master’s in education from Milligan College, and he is currently working toward earning his doctorate in educational leadership at Belhaven University. Smith worked at Madison-Ridgeland Academy for 16 years, and he is currently the secondary principal at Presbyterian Christian School. He and his wife, Kim, of 17 years have a son, Carter (14), and a daughter, Taylor (11).
What originally brought you to First Presbyterian Day School?
“The funny thing is, the process began when a member of the search committee called me and asked if I could give them a recommendation… At the time they asked me, I had been in the Jackson area 16 years prior, so I knew the school, knew the history of the school, sterling reputation in the community. So, as we spoke about the school, there was a little part of me kind of going, ‘Hey, I wish you were talking to me, but I’ll give you a name,’ and I did. I gave him a name, and he called me back the next day and said, ‘Look, you didn’t take the hint. I’d like to talk to you.’ So we began talking, and my wife and I began praying about it, because it was a big move for our family. We’re extremely happy where we are. We’ve just loved it. But this was a unique and special opportunity. In 52 years, they’ve had three heads, so this does not happen even in a lifetime sometimes.”
When and how did you decide to finally accept the position as head of school for FPDS in June?
“Just continual talk and prayer with my family — my bride and my children. We try to do things together, and we wanted it to be a situation that was going to be a positive for everyone. We knew it was going to be for me if the opportunity continued to develop. Like I said, it’s just an amazing school, and, of course, they’re true to their mission, which is the greatest thing I can say. They understand what they want to do and how they want to do it as far as leading young people in a Christian school. It was just a step-by-step process.”
How is the transition process going?
“I’ll fulfill my contract, which runs through the end of May with PCS. The more time I can spend with Mr. (Gary) Herring, I know the better I’ll be. He’s been gracious, and I’ll come up several times during the spring to get to know him and a few other people. I’ll try to glean as much wisdom as I can (from him). Thirty-one years is a long time, and I want to learn as much as I can during the time he’s available.”
Where do you currently work?
“Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg.”
What is your role at your current school?
“I’m the secondary principal.”
Where else have you worked in the past and what roles did you have?
“MRA (Madison-Ridgeland Academy) and PCS. I was at MRA for 16 years, and I did a lot of things. I was an English and Bible teacher, a coach. Then I was the dean of students, elementary principal and middle school principal. So I was able to serve in a lot of different areas.”
And when did you start at Presbyterian Christian?
“It’s been five years, so 2013. June of 2013”
What drew you to FPDS?
“Obviously, sterling reputation, but I think it’s without a doubt the mission, which is to pursue academic excellence, to create leaders, but to do all of this through teaching a Christian worldview. The mission of the school…is three statements that clarify everything: They’re going to plant seeds, pursue excellence, and prepare students for future service. That’s a paraphrase of the mission, but that’s the heart of what the school is. It’s who they’ve been for 52 years. They have not wavered from that. So that’s encouraging — they know who they are. They’re not looking to change because something’s popular or because of a new technique. It’s not that they’re not going to pursue new ways to teach young people, but they’re going to stay true to their mission. That was encouraging.”
What are some ways FPDS has recently increased their academic program?
“The things that are encouraging to me — and I don’t think they’re new, but they’re newer — the special friends program for (children with) Down Syndrome. It’s amazing. That’s a really special program, and that was one of those things when I saw it, I (thought) that was awesome. They just added a K3 and a K4 this year. So that’s brand new, because in so many of our families, both parents work. They didn’t need somewhere that said, ‘We can watch them for three hours or for four hours.’ They have to have them all day. Those two are both, I would say, the newer aspects.”
Do you have any goals for FPDS?
“I really don’t, aside from I want to continue the course that’s been set. I want to honor the mission and honor the work that’s been done in these 52 years leading up to this. Of course, education’s changing. We know that, in so many ways. So how do we utilize technology, how do we utilize new methods, how do we maintain and sustain the mission of the school? Because that is the most important thing.”
Is there anything you would improve about First Pres?
“My strength as an education is that I’ve been surrounded by great people. I’ve worked with the best in the business… I’ve been blessed to be with great people. The best thing I’m looking to bring is just to listen and to learn. I’ve never invented the wheel or anything better than what’s already been done. My hope and prayer is that I’ll honor the mission and keep hiring great people. I want to continue to seek out the best as we lose great people to retirement or as they move on to other things, to continue to bring great people into that school. That will be my challenge from the get-go…”