One of the first official acts for Seattle’s new superintendent of schools? Find somebody to lead Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary. Last week in a letter to families, new Seattle schools chief Jose Banda announced that Dr. Marion Smith, Jr. will take over at the E Mercer neighborhood elementary school.
Smith leaves Madrona Elementary to take the helm at Lowell following a tumultuous exit for previous principal Gregory King who resigned — twice — amid fallout from his handling of an investigation into complaints against a school employee. An investigator hired by SPS later found that a reported January 2011 “foot kissing” incident was only an assistant’s attempt to calm an upset student — but the incident set off a chain of events that included King and assistant principal Rina Geoghagan witholding information from SPS’s human resources administrators when requesting two employees who reported the case be investigated, the resignation of one of those employees who reported the possible misconduct and findings by the investigator that race had clouded King’s judgement in how he handled the case.
The decision completes another summer of transition for Lowell. The summer of 2011 was marked by debate over how to handle overcrowding in the “accelerated progress program” at the school. The solution was to split the program across the city.
With removal of the APP and as Seattle Schools has re-established the “neighborhood” school concept with focus on geographic location and elements like walkability, Lowell’s opportunity to grow in connection with families in this central area of the city is increasing. “Lowell is in a key location to serve the resurgence of families in the neighborhood,” architect Mike Mariano of Schemata Workshop said in CHS comments earlier this year. “We need to get Lowell back on the right track.” Mariano is developing a nearby cohousing project where, presumably, children would be eligible to attend Lowell.
In the letter announcing the appointment, Banda said the hiring committee was impressed with Smith’s “professional practices anchored in advocacy and equitable education, and his dedication to working with the community” and called the 11-year education veteran “fearless” in his support of teachers. The full letter is below.
Dear Lowell community,
I am excited today to announce the appointment of Dr. Marion Smith, Jr. as your new principal.
Dr. Smith comes to Lowell from Madrona K-8 where he was assistant principal during the 2011-2012 school year. He is committed to inclusive practices and will be a great fit for the Lowell Elementary School community. He has identified cultivating positive, constructive relationships with the community, supporting a foundation for continuous school improvement based on Lowell Elementary’s strengths and growth areas, and creating a shared vision for the future as beginning priorities as principal.
Marion Smith, Jr. served as the founding director of culture at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass, a K-8 turnaround school in North Philadelphia. He was previously dean of students at J.D. Smith Middle School in Las Vegas, and has also been a middle school English Language Arts teacher, high school English teacher, and AVID curriculum specialist for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. Starting his career in education, he was a lead pre-kindergarten teacher. Dr. Smith’s educational preparation includes an earned Doctorate of Educational Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University, a Masters of Education Administration and Supervision from the University of Phoenix-Las Vegas campus, and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary English Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He holds a Washington State Administrative Certificate.
He was selected after a hiring process that included input from staff and families. The selection committee was particularly impressed with Dr. Smith’s professional practices anchored in advocacy and equitable education, and his dedication to working with the community. He has demonstrated a fearless support of teachers, emphasizing access of learning for all students, and he is philosophically aligned with the hiring goals. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Marion Smith, Jr., to Lowell Elementary School!
Seattle Public Schools