Fairfield Schools leader looks back on 1st year and into next

Billy Smith, standing in the new Freshman School under construction, is wrapping up his first year as Superintendent of Fairfield Schools. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Billy Smith, standing in the new Freshman School under construction, is wrapping up his first year as Superintendent of Fairfield Schools. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

As the end of his first school year leading one of Southwest Ohio’s largest school systems nears, Fairfield Schools Superintendent Billy Smith says the district is on the cusp of a historic chapter.

And Smith knows Fairfield’s history.

The former Fairfield High School principal — who has also served as the district’s assistant superintendent of business — grew up in this Butler County city and has seen the changes and growth to its 9,000-student school system.

Smith was hired in 2016 after the departure of former Fairfield Superintendent Paul Otten, who went on to the superintendent’s job for Beavercreek Schools.

Explore MORE: Fairfield turns to school veteran to fill leader slot

Fairfield Schools, which also draws students from Fairfield Twp., is preparing to open three new schools as part of an historic $80 million building plan that will see two new elementaries and a new freshman school open its doors this for the 2017-2018 school year.

Explore MORE: School officials update status of historic school construction

The Journal-News asked Smith to reflect on his first year as a superintendent.

1. What has been the biggest surprise from your first year as Fairfield’s superintendent?

“I don’t know that there have been an abundance of surprises or one event that I would classify as a ‘biggest surprise.’ I do believe that my new role has required me to have a much bigger perspective. As a high school principal, my focus was to collaborate with students, staff, and parents at the high school to make our students’ high school experience the very best that it could be. In my role as superintendent, I have had the opportunity to work with many more staff members, community members, etc. to try and make the entire educational experience at Fairfield Schools the very best that it can be.”

2. What do you understand now that you didn’t before about the impact of the three new schools coming to the district soon?

“In my previous role as high school principal, the biggest impact that it had on me revolved around how our high school could partner with our freshman school to improve opportunities for our students in grades 9-12.

However, I have never taken for granted the positive impact that three new schools would have on our schools and our community. I have been fortunate to call Fairfield home for most of my life and had the opportunity to attend Fairfield Schools as a student. As a result, I know that it is a really big deal to have the opportunity to open three new schools in a community, and I am very proud and honored to serve as superintendent in a community that has proven to be so supportive of our school district. Opening three new schools in 2017 will forever change our school district for the better for our students, staff, and community.”

Explore MORE: New Fairfield schools bring new attendance zones for students

3. What accomplishments do your feel most proud of from your first year and what challenges have been or remain the most frustrating?

“I am most proud of how so many staff members have worked together for the last several years to ensure a smooth transition for our students and families as we build three new building and change the structure of our schools. I don’t know if I can pinpoint any specific challenge that has been extremely frustrating. As with any other school district, we are constantly changing. These changes take place for many reasons.”

4. After being in charge for the year, what can you tell Fairfield school parents to expect from the district in the 2017-2018 school year?

“I can promise our parents that the Fairfield Schools will continue to work hard to provide the very best educational experience for our students, parents, and community. I want our students to want to come to school every day. I want the parents of our students to be proud of the fact that they send their students to the schools in our district each day. I want all of our residents to be proud of the fact they live in a community that is served by an outstanding school district.”

5. Describe the two or three top items on your “to-do” list for the next school year and explain to school families why they are important?

“As a school district, we will continue to explore ways that we can better meet the needs of our students, parents, and community members. As our students’ needs change, we need to change. We talk about the importance of meeting our students where they are, and we will remain committed to providing the very best educational experience for each of our students. We would like to continue to explore ways to engage our community. A school district is at its best when it knows the needs of its students and the community. As a result, we may explore some new strategies to engage our parents and community members.”

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