Below is a letter of introduction from Beth Smith, incoming principal of Patrick Henry High School. I have sung the well-deserved praises of this community to Mrs. Smith. I know you will welcome her as you did me and a strong partnership will form from the first day of her tenure.
While I am sad to be turning over the reins because I will see less of all of the fine folks who support Patrick Henry High School, I also know that in Mrs. Smith’s hands, PHHS will continue to be the great school it is and will continue to move forward. You will be hearing more about this transition as we move through this last quarter of the school year.
With warm regards,
April 17, 2016
Dear Patrick Henry High School Patriots and families,
It is an honor to have been approved by the Hanover County School Board Tuesday evening as the next principal of Patrick Henry High School. I feel blessed to be joining this amazing school community and team. As a tenured principal of twelve years, it may seem strange that I would want to leave my current assignment for a lateral move. If I were in your shoes, I would be curious about the back story, so I would like to share mine briefly with you.
Henrico County has been my personal, educational, and professional home for over 42 years, and leaving Henrico County in all of these ways is truly bittersweet. I was educated from Kindergarten through graduation in Henrico, earned my diploma at Douglas Freeman High School, and returned to enjoy an 18 year career during which I have been afforded many opportunities. Presently, I am serving in my sixth year as principal of Mills E. Godwin High School and spent the previous six years as the inaugural principal of Hungary Creek Middle School.
In the past two years my personal life has changed wonderfully yet dramatically. I met my now husband, we blended our two separate families into one, large, happily chaotic gaggle of eight, and then we carefully selected Ashland for our new residence. We have absolutely fallen in love with this area and have enjoyed being closer to my step children’s schools of Oak Knoll Middle and Hanover High School.
While I have enjoyed the beautiful drive to and from Ashland to Godwin every day, I can’t help but think of the time spent away from work and family during this commute. Having lost my mother to cancer over ten years ago, enduring three bouts of breast cancer with my older sister, and now helping to support the care of my in-laws, time has become a commodity of increasing value. Therefore, when Patrick Henry High School, the school within two miles of our new home, began seeking a new principal, I was compelled to consider this potential. It was a heart wrenching choice because I adore Godwin’s fantastic community, families, students, and staff, but it made more sense for my family to invest not only our tax dollars but also my time and energy in the school community where we now reside and are putting down collective roots.
As I have pondered the opportunity of leading Patrick Henry High School, I have been inspired by the namesake’s own words from his March 23, 1775 Liberty or Death Speech, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” My professional past ranges in experience from West End middle and high schools to secondary correctional and alternative education; from exceptional education to regular education; from classroom teacher and school counselor to building principal and leadership liaison. I have had the privilege to lead schools that were making their own history as well as schools with decades of history; I have collaborated with teams during times of school crisis as well as celebration. I have learned from colleagues, parents, and kids how to motivate the most reluctant of learners yet still inspire those most eager to excel, and I have learned the most in times of challenge and grown the most when open to change and new perspectives.
With my lamp lit by this breadth of past opportunity, I look forward to my future at Patrick Henry High School where I hope to utilize my range of experience in service to this beautifully diverse community united by a tradition of excellence and deep investment in our children and their future. Thank you for allowing me to become a Patrick Henry Patriot. It was a pleasure to briefly greet the faculty and staff Wednesday morning before having to dash over to Godwin to share my news in a faculty meeting there and then jump in the car for a marathon trip to Fort Benning, Georgia for my stepson’s graduation ceremony from Basic Training with the United States Army at the close of this week. Please know that relationships are what I believe to be the key to strong school communities, and I am eager to meet with the important stakeholders of Patrick Henry High School. I am working with Dr. Staley and Dr. Bibb on appropriate times and venues to do so during this transition. I look forward to earning your trust.
Respectfully, Beth Smith