Sumrall Principal honored with top title

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Terry Smith knows he has his hands full when he reports to the office on weekdays. Smith is the principal at Sumrall Middle School and serves as a guide on his students’ trek toward graduation.

For the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at SMS, life is full of changes, Smith said.

“I think it’s probably the most trying time for kids because they are trying to find out who they are and where they fit in,” he said. “It’s interesting, but there’s never a dull moment. Every day, you never know what you’re going to come up with.”

Because of Smith’s ability to chart a course for his students, he was named the 2017-18 Lamar County Administrator of the Year.

“It was honor; it is a big deal,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good administrators in this district, so it really is.”

Smith, who was a teacher and coach before he became Oak Grove Middle School’s seventh-grade principal five years ago, has been at Sumrall Middle School since 2015.

“School had actually started in 2015 and I threw my hat in the ring for this,” he said. “I kind of jumped on a moving train and have been here ever since. It’s been good; it’s been a lot of fun.”

At the ages of his 450 students, Smith is aware that they are undergoing changes.

“There are a lot of hormones during this time; there’s a lot of diversity,” he said. “We’ve got kids that look like third-graders and kids that look like high schoolers. Just because they look like a third-grader doesn’t mean a whole lot; just because they look like a high schooler doesn’t mean a lot. They are still middle school kids. They are kids who were best friends last year, one took off, the other one stayed and the interests start developing.”

Because the students are looking to find their interests, Smith said the school tries to provide outlets.

“With everything going on, we try to start exposing them to a lot of different things of what they want to be,” he said. “With the curriculum the way it is now, in this coming school year, we’re just trying to get them on the graduation track in the eighth grade, if not earlier. This is where everything starts to get lined up and it has a huge effect on their future sometime.”

One strength during Smith’s leadership at SMS has been the school’s attendance record in the district.

“We’ve put some things in place since I’ve been here,” he said. “Attendance wasn’t horrible when I got here, but it really wasn’t what it should have been. We wanted to know what were some of the reasons why kids weren’t coming to school. We can’t teach them if they’re not here. If you are going to find the best way for them to show up, you go to the source. We asked them.”

Smith said the results turned out to be simple.

“The good thing is the ideas they gave us that they wanted more than anything else didn’t really cost us anything,” he said. “They just wanted time with their friends, blue jean days and stuff like that. We told them, ‘Hey, you show up; you give us this.’ We started going weekly, monthly, we did it individually and we did it as a class. It was really simple and it started working. I think we got the attendance award (for middle schools) six of the nine months it was offered last year and we’ve gotten it one or two times this year. We take a lot of pride in that. If we can get them here, we have a chance of reaching them. So, it’s a big deal of us.”

Smith said he feels fortunate to be an administrator in the Lamar County School District because everyone works together for the students.

“We’re in the same district and we’re like a family,” he said. “You’ll fight among yourselves, but let somebody else come and mess with us and we’ll get together.”