Jamaican-born vice principal wins BCPS Caliber Awards

Jacqueline A. Smith

Smith beat out 5 other competitive candidates

Assistant Principal Jacqueline A. Smith of Hollywood Hills High has been named the 2016 Caliber Awards Assistant Principal of the Year by Broward County Public Schools (BCPS). Smith was awarded in a special ceremony at the Broward County Convention Center.

The awards mark a landmark moment in an accomplished teaching career for Smith, who came to profession after a mid-career change from hotel management. Moving from Jamaica to New York to work in the hospitality industry, Smith soon found an urge for another path. She soon enrolled in a master’s education program, “and since then I never looked back,” says Smith in an interview with National Weekly.

Smith was up against 5 other competitive candidates in the Broward school system, but managed to stand out from the pack with her impressive accomplishments and initiatives at Hollywood Hills High School. Since joining Hollywood Hills High, student achievement has risen significantly in reading, math, science and Advanced Placement exams, which helped boost the school’s state letter grade from a “D” to a “B.” She was also praised for her innovative initiatives, such as the school-wide reading program, “Spartan Reads.” Running for five years, the program provides extended learning opportunities for students in key academic areas. Her college prep after-school program, in collaboration with Hispanic Unity, was also launched with much success thanks to a $100,000 grant from State Farm.

At the heart of the school’s recent success, says Smith, has been the program’s championship of reading across disciplines. “Once we saw the great spikes in our grades, we knew we had to stay the course. Even PE teachers would include literacy in their classes.” As Florida has adopted the state’s common core requirements, reading across disciplines, and not just English class, says Smith, proves essential, “as there is a difference between reading and understanding. They need to comprehend, analyze and synthesize text. In these new tests, students are now asked to see connections across two or three different texts, from a poem, to a chart, to an essay extract. You can’t just learn this in English class. This has to happen in all areas, whether in technology, science, or physical education.”

As for the award, Smith is most grateful for “the positive attention it brings to my school community, more so than myself. I’m humbled and honored about the award. But it’s more about marking all the things we’ve accomplished as a school and as a community.”

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