After more than a decade teaching and administrating in the Tennessee public school system, University of Idaho alumnus Brian Smith has returned to Moscow to serve as principal for two regional schools. The Moscow School District has selected Smith to lead both West Park Elementary and Paradise Creek Regional High School.

Smith said he has “always felt the pull of public schools,” calling them a “hub of the community.”

Upon graduating in 2005, Smith found work teaching music and special education courses in a public school in inner-city Nashville. In his years working in the Nashville region, he said he served in various capacities as both a teacher and as an administrator. In his most recent post, Smith was principal of Station Camp Middle School in suburban Sumner County — a school of about 980 students.

While he is proud of the work he did in Tennessee, Smith said, when the Moscow position opened, he leapt at the chance to rejoin a community he remembered for its commitment to family and education.

“We have wanted to come back home for a long time — the Moscow community made a mark on my wife and I that we just couldn’t forget,” Smith said. “When the position opened and I applied, I said to my wife, ‘This could be our greatest homecoming.’ ”

While taking the helm of two schools presents unique challenges, Smith said, both West Park and Paradise Creek represent an opportunity to have a profound impact on children’s lives — albeit at different stages of development.

Smith said students at West Park will be experiencing public education for the first time, and as a leader in the school, he has a chance to help make that a galvanizing, positive experience. With the proper support and guidance, elementary school students can build skills that give them an enthusiasm and aptitude for learning that transmits throughout their lives, he said.

While Paradise Creek offers different challenges, Smith called the alternative school an “essential piece of the public school experience” that complements the traditional classroom by offering struggling students other options.

While he intends to build on previous successes of the schools he inherits, he said his strategy for both schools will be to build a network of support for students within the community. He said this is achieved by clearly communicating institutional goals to all those involved.

“What’s so neat about being an administrator, is you can work as sort of the weaver of the web — you can connect the people throughout the community, that’s parents, teachers, support staff, community members and mentors,” Smith said. “You build that village around the child and then you also work to help communicate those needs around that web, so everyone understands the same goals that were working for.”

Another reason he and his wife are excited to move back, Smith said, is because the two have family in the area — Smith is from Spokane and his wife’s family hails from Bozeman, Mont.

Smith said he arrived in Moscow on July 1 and has since set about laying the groundwork to move his small family to the Palouse. He said much has changed since he and his wife left town for destinations eastward, but Moscow still feels like home.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to come back to a community that served me so well as a student,” he said. “And to be able to come back and give to this community means a lot to me — really we’re beyond grateful as a family.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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