New superintendent aims to be “positive influence” throughout district

That’s why I am here

School leader Scott Smith stops to chat with some of the students

Scott Smith knows the exact moment he decided to switch careers.

Scott Smith, new superintendent for Cedar Springs

Attending college on a manufacturing scholarship pursuing a degree in Pulp and Paper Engineering, his moment of clarity came while he was on a field trip to a plant.

“I was getting off the bus, seeing the sun over Lake Michigan and walking into the facility, and I knew this wasn’t for me,” said the new superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools.

Inspiration also came from his younger days. “I always had had an incredible appreciation for teachers and coaches and the impact they had on my life  along the way,” he said. “They made me want to do that for other people.”

He returned to school, gave up his scholarship and refocused on his love for nature and the outdoors. After briefly considering a career in forestry or conservation, he turned to education and continued with his math and earth science majors.

“It (education) was not about making a product but about making a difference. There is no better profession or endeavour in life to influence people,” he said.

Smith greets a district teacher

‘A Great Time to be Here’

Smith has been in education for 25 years — as a teacher, a principal or in other administration roles. “That collection of experience prepared me for this opportunity in Cedar Springs” he said. “It is all about timing, and it is a great time to be here.”

He started his career substitute teaching in Holland Public’s West Middle School and came to Cedar Springs from Hudsonville district’s administration where he said he was privileged to help build a new middle school.

Getting to know Scott Smith


First best thing discovered in Cedar Springs:
unlimited popcorn refills after purchase of a Wesco bucket.

The problem with board games: “We as a family like all kinds of games,” he said. “They keep me sane and contribute to my mental health,” reluctantly admitting that for him table games can be addicting. “Sometimes on a Saturday morning, my wife and I will start playing and then realize we have wasted half a day.”

Family pet: a spoiled dog

What kind? “He is just a dog, but he keeps us young.”

Big adventure: Smith, wife Sarah, and their two sons hiked the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska this past summer. The trail runs along the Yukon River and follows the history of the Canadian gold rush.

A favorite saying: “I do life with a capital L.”

It is hard work to go from being a classroom teacher to an administrator, he said. “When you are in a classroom, you have about 120 students total, and as an administrator, there is a whole other level of influence to worry about, he said. “Even with over 600 students, it is still important to find opportunities to make a difference in the life of each.”

Smith brings that philosophy with him to Cedar Springs. “I hope to have a positive influence on staff and students across the district,” he said. “That’s why I am here.”

His goals for the first year: “I will figure that out after I have been here for awhile,” he said. “But the big picture is to focus on quality services for — and the success of — all students.”

Proud family man

Smith’s wife Sarah inspires him. Sarah, a former english teacher, is now employed at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, serving all students and their families. “She has a crazy impact on so many lives,” said Smith. “It is hard for me to even discuss her work without getting teary eyed.”

The couple has two sons. “I always knew that I would have kids that I love, but am so fortunate to have kids I really like. They both teach me so much,” he said.

The entire family loves being outdoors and in particular enjoy skiing in the winter and playing at the beach and in Lake Michigan during the warmer months.

Speaking of his family and his new position in Cedar Springs Smith said, “There is no better place than right here, right now. I am one lucky man.”

New Superintendent Scott Smith, right, gets to know a few local business leaders at a recent grand opening
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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