Linden’s Smith reflects on first academic year

Published 8:39 am Monday, June 27, 2011

LINDEN – Dr. Tyrone Smith, fresh off his first year as superintendent of Linden City Schools, looks back on his first 12 months with pride.

“We are blessed with this opportunity from God that we have this opportunity to empower our children to compete globally,” he said.

Among the city school’s crowning accomplishments, Smith said, was the complete eradication of the high school’s dropout rate.

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“We went from 4 percent to zero,” Smith said comparing this past academic year to 2009-2010.

With all Linden High students opting to remain enrolled for graduation, Patriot Seniors earned more than $1 million in scholarships this year.

Other benchmarks achieved by the school system included an attendance rate of 98 percent and a graduation rate of 99.5 percent.

“Our reading and math scores exceed 98 percent (the state benchmark),” Smith said.

Another improvement Smith noted was in parental involvement. Smith and his school leaders have launched a series of meetings which integrate parents and grandparents into the school and their children’s eduction.

“Our parental involvement has gone from 20 percent to 98 percent,” he said.

This first parental involvement meeting for this academic year will be held Aug. 17, which will feature the U.S. Silent Drill Team Platoon.

The Platoon is a 24-man rifle platoon of the U.S. Marine Corps who have performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration among others. Smith said they were chosen as the evening’s performance because the team and the school system share many similarities.

“They stand for excellence, as do we,” he said. “They stand for hard work, dedication, as do we. Unity, teamwork, precision…we share those same principles.”

At that meeting, the school system intends to kick off its Dollar Plan, asking students, parents, faculty and administration to set aside $1 per month to help offset the effects of proration.

Smith said he expected the program could raise more than $8000 annually.

Any gains from the program would help offset statewide proration which cost the school system three teaching positions this coming year.

However, Smith said the outcome and job losses were better than many similarly situated systems.

“We owe that to Ms. Lakendra Raby, our CFO, for her good management of our finances,” he said. “Thanks to her, our losses were not as bad as others and we didn’t have to eliminate any programs.”

Smith thanked the board members, faculty, staff and employees of the city’s school system for their work in raising and setting the academic bar in Linden, but those handshakes and pats on the back will be short lived in the coming days.

Slightly more than a month remains before Patriots begin to fill their respective hallways and lockers, putting the accomplishments and goals of 2010-2011 fully on the shelf and the bar will officially be raised. Smith said they are ready.

“To keep our drop out rate at zero percent and keep our graduation rate up, hopefully to get that to 100 percent,” he said of the goals for the coming year. “And, of course, to continue to meet and exceed state-mandated benchmarks and goals. We want to improve across the board, in all areas.”