By Sarah Naron
ELKHART – When Dr. Lamont Smith learned of the vacant superintendent position at Elkhart Independent School District, he was enamored with the idea of being able to return to his roots.
“I grew up in Cayuga and went to school there from kindergarten through 12th grade,” he said. “I liked the idea of being able to come home and be on familiar grounds. The Palestine area was no stranger to me – you know, to go buy groceries, you’ve got to go to Palestine. My first bank was Elkhart State Bank.”
Dr. Smith, who attended Trinity Valley Community College upon graduating from Cayuga High School, said that coming back to Anderson County “just made sense.
“I even think about my son – he’s a country boy, and it was like we were trapped in a suburban area,” he chuckled. “And just being able to see him when we come back to the Cayuga area – and also to Commerce, where my wife is from – to see him around the rural atmosphere, playing with animals, climbing trees and just having a good time – it made sense to me to have an opportunity to come back home and be around some family and friends.”
Prior to beginning his duties at EISD last month, Dr. Smith held numerous positions at Lancaster ISD, located a short distance from Dallas, over a period of eight years.
“I served as a principal there on a couple of campuses and elevated to executive director of accountability and focused on instruction,” Dr. Smith explained. “I elevated to assistant superintendent student services and then deputy superintendent.”
Dr. Smith also served as the principal of Corsicana Middle School, carrying the school from an academically unacceptable status and falling just short of a recognized status. He also served as the principal of Kerens Middle School, leading the school to achieve recognition after previously being deemed academically unacceptable.
Dr. Smith’s resume also includes English teaching positions at Navarro Community College and Rice ISD, the latter at which he also served as a debate team coach, UIL coordinator and director and a coach of all sports with the exception of volleyball.
“Prior to that, I was a teacher at Commerce,” Dr. Smith added. “I taught English there as well and coached all boys’ sports.”
Dr. Smith explained that he originally aspired to become an attorney and was informed that majoring in English and government was the first step to realizing that dream.
“My grandmother on my dad’s side was a teacher, and my dad would always say, ‘Hey, you need to get something that you can fall back on,’” Dr. Smith recalled. “So, I did the certifications and went through student teaching.”
In the midst of his time as a student teacher, Dr. Smith said, “I just fell in love with the kids.
“I was like, ‘Man, this makes sense. I love what I’m doing. I feel like I’m making an impact; a difference,’” he said. “And I think that’s really why I wanted to be an attorney, too, because I could make an impact – a difference in people that needed assistance. It was a way of protecting and serving, and I see education as the same avenue – protecting and serving.”
Dr. Smith spoke of his desire “to develop partnerships that will bring people together to make a difference and an impact on society – specifically, our community – so that our kids will have choices and opportunities where they can be successful” during his time at Elkhart ISD.
According to Dr. Smith, three elements shape the core of who he is as a person.
“It’s about faith, and it’s family and our future focus,” he said.
As Dr. Smith was growing up, church played an integral role in his life.
“I would go there, and I would listen, and I would try to make it applicable to my life,” he said. “It’s about the golden rule, overall – treat people the way you want to be treated. But then, also, it stems from that, and it’s about, of course, salvation, but it stems into the whole aspect of treating people with dignity and respect. And so, I bring that into the environment.”
Dr. Smith described the family in which he grew up as “a nucleus family,” explaining that his parents and siblings were always around.
“It’s caused my wife, Erica, and me to raise our children the same way,” he said. “It’s all about us being together and being connected.”
Future focus, Dr. Smith said, is a topic of frequent conversation among the members of the family.
“We’re always planning and looking down the road,” he said. “What do we want to do? What kind of impact do we want to make on this world – this society – and how can we help each other accomplish that goal?”
As Dr. Smith pointed out, his entire family was “shifted” due to his desire to return to Anderson County as a superintendent.
“That meant that she (Erica) had to move down; it wasn’t an option for me to go get a job and she stay back, it was, ‘We’ve got to come together,” he said. “So, that’s important.”
Dr. Smith’s son is now a seventh-grade student at Elkhart ISD.
“We intend to make Elkhart his home, where he’ll end up graduating from,” he said. “So, we’re proud of that.”
Dr. Smith also has two daughters, one of which is currently a college student and the other who is in the working world.