Back to School
An Interview with Dr. Jack Smith
MCEDC recently spoke with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith, who offered insights into the strength of the MCPS system and its responsibility to educate our future Montgomery County business leaders and employees.
Q: Where does Montgomery County rank nationally in terms of school systems?
A: The short answer is that we are among the best. For example, the number of students who receive outstanding scores on AP, SAT and ACT exams provides an important indication of a school system’s success. Our MCPS system not only ranks higher than Maryland’s average, but the nation’s average as well.
In addition to the scores our students achieve, acclaimed lists such as the Jay Mathews Assessment of High Schools and U.S. News & World Report place many of our schools on their lists.
Q: Can you name a challenge the county has seen and strived to overcome? What about something in the future you see as a challenge that you are focusing on?
A: I don’t see challenges to overcome, I see opportunities. Immense career exposure and helping our students discover their career path is one of the biggest opportunities we provide, which really excites me. Many students go to college, but everyone goes to work. We need to ensure our students understand this and the importance of their academic career.
Using technology for learning instead of only using it for personal enjoyment provides a second opportunity for our students. We want to educate our students on how the powerful computer we today call a cell phone integrates into an educational experience. Anything can be Googled, but that isn’t an education. I want them to be able to research a subject, but also understand its nuances and why their findings are what they are.
Q: How does MCPS and county programs interact with businesses in this area?
A: Montgomery County offers programs to prepare our students for the workforce, such as the SummerRise program. This program sends 500 high school students to spend time and interact with businesses to assist them in discovering their long-term career goals and interest areas.
I believe that as a county, we must work together. Our businesses and education system can do this by seeking out joint and shared opportunities to engage our community. As educators, we need to know what businesses look for from their new-hires so we can provide the best education possible to prepare our students for the real world.
Q: I understand you gave some remarks and spoke to new teachers recently. What are you hearing from the teachers about the county?
A: Hearing how well-resourced the county is dominated my conversations with the teachers. They talked about the good salaries, motivated students and joint teacher-leader opportunities.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being superintendent and why?
A: Watching students succeed and seeing their “ah-ha!” moments brings me excitement and inspiration. I always say, “you don’t have to be sick to get better.” If you don’t continuously improve, you will not keep up with today’s standards and will not deliver promising assets and resources to students who deserve the best education we can give them. With the resources Montgomery County possesses, I don’t see anything stopping us from giving them the best.