Moscow principal Brian Smith this week selected as a recipient of the state’s prestigious Gem awards for his leadership at the elementary school level.

Smith, principal at West Park Elementary School and Paradise Creek Alternative High School, was selected as a winner of the award in the category of instructional leadership — one of three such awards presented by the Idaho Association of School Administrators each year.

Moscow Superintendent Greg Bailey said Smith was nominated by his peers in the Moscow School District. Bailey said Smith’s nomination was supported by letters of recommendation from himself, fellow administrators in the district and staff from both schools. Since starting with the district a year and a half ago, Bailey said Smith has made a deep impression on his colleagues.

“He’s just a strong leader that has been doing an excellent job since he came here,” Bailey said.

Lena Whitmore Elementary School Principal Kendra McMillan, who won the same award in 2013, said “instructional leadership” is a broad term referring to a slate of best practices and leadership qualities that an elementary school principal should know and possess. With his passion for supporting student growth and his broad knowledge base as a professional, she said Smith was a shoo-in for the award.

“Brian has been a breath of fresh air in our administrative council group — he is not afraid to ask tough questions,” McMillan said. “The core of his leadership philosophy is what’s best for kids and what can he do to help make that growth happen?”

Russell Elementary School Principal Craig Allen, who McMillan said helped to lead the charge on Smith’s nomination, agreed he has been a diligent and committed administrator and the district is lucky to have him.

“It’s rare that somebody comes into a district and has such a positive impact on everything that’s going on,” Allen said. “The award itself is for instructional leadership and that stuff really shines through with Brian in his conversations with the kids, his conversations with the staff and the way he’s reaching out and supporting the families right now — it’s just been amazing.”

For his part, Smith said he feels lucky to work in a district that sees the job of public school administration as a sacred responsibility to the community. Smith said he sees the award not as evidence of a personal achievement but as recognition of the hard work and successes made possible by the faculty and staff he leads in both schools in a particularly challenging year.

“I honestly find myself just sitting back in sheer admiration of what the teachers have done in being creative to bridge the gap in technology, student access (and) social emotional needs,” Smith said. “Really, any kind of recognition for instructional leadership belongs to both of these buildings because there isn’t a single person in either school that’s not doing everything they can to reach every single student, despite the many hurdles we’ve had.”

Smith will be presented with the Elementary Gem Award by the IASA during the organization’s summer leadership conference Aug. 4.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to

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