Collaboration & communication

Administrator named regional Principal of the Year

When asked how it feels to be named a regional Principal of the Year, Aaron Smith is flummoxed.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a little embarrassing. I don’t shy away from the spotlight, but I know this is because of the team here, not just my efforts. It is humbling and I appreciate it, but this represents the hard work of everyone.”

Smith is in his sixth year as principal of Skyridge Middle School in Camas. Recently, he was named the St. Helens Region Distinguished Principal of the Year.

Smith was nominated by Marilyn Boerke, principal at nearby Liberty Middle School.

“Aaron is an excellent middle school administrator and instructional leader,” Boerke said in her nomination letter. “He embodies dignity, respect, good humor, and professionalism in all that he does.”

She continued that he can be counted on to consider situations from all points of view, seeks opportunities for collaboration and arrives at decisions focused on the well-being of students.

“Aaron has systems in place to ensure collaboration and effective communication, including a shared leadership team and a strong focus on Professional Learning Communities that is evident in the positive learning environment and student growth evident at Skyridge,” she said.

Boerke and Smith have worked together in PLC groups and collaborated on other projects.

“We have a very close working relationship,” he said. “It is wonderful to work in a district where other administrators are so congenial and there is a great relationship between both middle schools. We all love working with this age group.”

It is not the first time an administrator from Skyridge has won the principal of the year honor. In 2013, assistant principal Clint Williams received the recognition.

“It is really nice because it is a reflection of the hard work students and staff are doing,” Smith said. “We have amazing kids and a lot of community support. It is a group effort.”

Smith has been involved in middle school education since 1996. He served as a band and choir teacher for several years before moving into administration.

“Kids at this age are fantastic and the teachers who work here have empathy, humor and are flexible with our students,” he said. “We get great results here, but it’s our teachers who are doing so much to help our students learn, especially with new initiatives and mandates.”

Boerke noted that Smith has served on the district’s Advanced Placement Task Force and has guided his staff in practice exams that led to a new system to address deficits and improve learning.

“In addition to academic excellence and strong achievement, Aaron is an extremely positive individual with whom to work,” Boerke said. “…The ability to find humor in the often dire or fractious circumstances we face as school principals and lighten everyone’s outlook is an invaluable character trait…I’m proud and humbled to be his colleague.”