Brad Smith, the new Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction was sworn in Friday morning at the Utah State Office of Education. Smith is replacing Superintendent Martell Menlove who announced his retirement in March.
In an 8-7 vote the Utah State School Board back in October chose Attorney Brad Smith to lead Utah’s public school system. Smith leaves behind the Ogden School District, where he served as superintendent for three years. Under Smith’s leadership, test scores and graduation rates in the district improved, although his methods faced pushback. He relied heavily on student data and in 2011, he sidestepped the local teacher’s union, requiring teachers to sign individual contracts.
“Initially, my plan is to do a tremendous amount of listening, questioning, seeking understanding, making sure I understand where the board’s at,” Smith says. “And I’m going to do that before I start pushing anybody.”
Jay Blaine represents the Utah Education Association. He welcomed Superintendent Smith and encouraged him to work closely with the UEA to inform policy decisions. He assured Smith the organization truly represents teachers in the state of Utah.
“We would love to fill this room and the rooms of the committees here with teachers to be able to give you input on the rules and policies that you consider every month. But we know that they’re out there doing what’s best for each student, and that’s teaching.”
Smith’s priorities are 3rd grade literacy, 8th grade math proficiency, teaching innovation and ensuring students are college and career-ready.
Last month, the state released the results of the first SAGE test, or Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence. It showed less than half of students in the state are proficient in Math, Language Arts, and Science.