Huff principal wins national recognition

Only seven principals in the U.S. win national award

It's been all good news for Huff Elementary School lately. The school received the National Blue Ribbon School award for high student achievement earlier this year, and now has one more accolade of which to be proud.

Huff Principal Heidi Smith received the 2015 Terrel H. Bell award, making her one of only seven principals in the nation to receive the award this year. The award recognizes principals for playing a vital role in student achievement, even under frequently challenging circumstances, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Smith was selected, in part, because of her passion for social justice and equity at the school, according to the Department of Education's website. She ditched Huff's Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program in favor of "Enrichment for All," a new program that extends elective classes and activities to all students at the school.

"Since the transition, student morale has improved, as have students' oral presentations and critical thinking skills. Achievement gaps have narrowed, and the program has fostered a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students," according to the website.

On Friday morning last week, Smith visited one classroom after another, greeting the students and checking on the lesson plans of the day. She said she started doing the classroom visits to get a good look at what activities are going on at the school, and to log how rigorous the learning objectives are from day to day. But she said it doesn't take much to encourage teachers to go the extra mile.

"They love what they do. It never feels like they need motivation -- they're always looking for solutions and improvements," Smith said.

Another one of Smith's goals is to promote what she called "STEW," a play on the typical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, that injects writing into the mix. She said any time students are working on science or math, they keep a journal to catalog what they learned and put it into writing.

When she found out she had been selected for the national award, Smith said she was thrilled.

"That was very cool. To be one of seven leaders in the nation, it's humbling," she said.

Colleen McCullough, a second-grade teacher at Huff, said Smith always has the students' interests in mind, and has offered plenty of support to the teaching staff as well. She has an open-door policy for teachers and is always ready to listen to new ideas, she said.

"She is easy to work with, and is always open to our opinions and feedback," McCullough said.

Huff PTA board member Claire Quesnel-Oueini commended Smith for rallying parents and staff, who all come from very different backgrounds and experiences, under the common goal of doing what's best for the students at the school.

Smith joined the district as Huff's new principal in 2012, and relocated from her home in New York. At the time, former superintendent Craig Goldman called Smith a "gem" that they would've missed had their search not included out-of-state applicants.

Goldman told the Voice that he was very excited to hear that Smith had received the Terrel H. Bell award. Smith has both the vision and leadership skills to take on any challenges she faces as principal of the school, he said.

"It was a wonderful day when she decided to join the Mountain View Whisman community," Goldman said in an email.

The awardees, including Smith, will be honored at the annual National Blue Ribbon School ceremony on Nov. 9 and 10 in Washington D.C.

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21 people like this
Posted by Jill Rakestraw
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 5, 2015 at 2:13 pm

A well-deserved honor for an incredibly effective and supportive administrator. Ms. Smith demonstrates what we all want in a leader by setting high expectations and allowing her staff the freedom to meet and exceed them. Congratulations!

12 people like this
Posted by Huff Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Heidi Smith raises everyone up around her. She encourages everyone to better themselves: students, teachers, and parents. She united the entire school community. She is a remarkable educator, administrator, and human being making the world a better place. Mountain View is lucky to have her in their community.

14 people like this
Posted by Huff Reality Check
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 5, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Huff School parents deserve to be recognized far more than this. This award only is possible because Huff parents send consistently intelligent, well-prepared, and highly motivated students to Huff School. They properly prepare and support their children for successful school outcomes. What happens in the classroom is secondary to what happens at home.

In the words of my relatives and friends who are or who have been elementary education teachers, “It all begins and ends at students’ homes.” This should be the mantra for “fixing” underperforming public schools’ educational performances --- you can’t fix the kids if you don’t fix their parents first. And guess what? It’s too late for that once they're in school. This is NOT politically correct, but it needs to be said because it is absolutely true. Parents (and their social expectations) are the 600 lb gorillas dominating our public schools’ classrooms.

5 people like this
Posted by A Huge Fan
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 5, 2015 at 8:08 pm

From the moment she arrived, Heidi Smith started working at making a great school EVEN BETTER! She could have simply kept things running as they had been, but she made it clear when she arrived that she believed Huff had more potential and she wanted to take the school to another level.

Yes, it was a team effort by students, parents, teachers, staff, but it was all led by a fierce and committed administrator with the ability to turn that lofty vision into a reality. Not an easy task with so many different players and personalities.

This award couldn't go to a more deserving person. Congratulations!

13 people like this
Posted by Former student NY
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

I seen this today and was thrilled to see my former teacher Ms.Smith being honered with Terrell H Bell award. HUFF Sounds like a good school and good community and I salute the parents and students of that area as well. I just want to tell my quick story about Hedi Smith. When I was fifteen I lost my mom to cancer I was on the streets gang banging and didn't care about my education. I was on the break of dropping out of school,until I meet Ms.Smith. What Hedi showed me was a life and new direction. Ms.Smith looked my in the face and challenged me to do something no one in my community thought was possible. Not only did Ms.Smith tell me I was going to finish school she told me I would go away to college to stay away from the streets. I was just getting ready to drop out of high school and this lady told me I was going to college. I was pushed to a limit that following year academically by Hedi that I didn't even know I was capable of reaching. I got my bachelors three years ago in child and family studies. Im getting ready to start Grad school soon. I and many other kids like me could've been lost in the streets of NY but we ran into Ms.Smith. As a father now of a young man and a child advocate myslef we need more people like Hedi Smith. A gem Huff you do have and thank you guys for supporting hard work and dedication. Its well deserve this women basically gave me a new hope and I would love to follow and give back like her.

19 people like this
Posted by Great but...
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Heidi Smith is great. I wonder what she could do to raise the level at one of our schools that isn't quite so wealthy though. Huff is a wealthy school in a wealthy neighborhood-- of course it's doing well.

Let's redeploy her to Monta Loma and see if it can rise up out of its mediocrity.

4 people like this
Posted by Nikki
a resident of another community
on Nov 7, 2015 at 5:17 am

Awww my old highschool teacher. Congrats you've always done great things. You were a gem then and Ms Smith is still shinning gem now.

3 people like this
Posted by Claire-Louise Meng
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2015 at 5:53 am

I have known Heidi Smith as an administrator in Uniondale Public Schools on Long Island and I am very impressed by her dedication to enrich all children’s education. She has made a great impact with her school community, sets a national example and deserves recognition for her fruitful pursuits in education. I wish her and her family good health. We need more like her to impact the quality of education in other schools.

4 people like this
Posted by Zenaida Tabibi
a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2015 at 7:10 am

Congratulations Heidi Smith !!! Well deserved award, you are amazing person very proud of work and dedication. God bless you always.

8 people like this
Posted by Chuck M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

Social justice and equity means relaxing academic and behavioral standards to make the people on the left side of the bell curve feel better about themselves, at the expense of the gifted kids. This is why we will be homeschooling my son Trevor starting next year.

5 people like this
Posted by Maria
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 8, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Yes, lets put Heidi over at Castro and see how she does there with equity.

5 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 9, 2015 at 7:44 am

There was a point to Principal Smith's work at Huff, that may have been missed by some, but was mentioned by the Voice reporter. GATE money into Enrichment for All. Huff had a highly unusual source of dedicated funds for GATE, that started at $180,000 before Principal Smith was hired. She figured out how to repurpose those funds, and draw her school community into that process, so the 10% Economically Disadvantaged students in her school could excel. Her whole school community participated, under her leadership.
Check how Los Altos Santa Rita elementary, also with 10% ED, fared for their ED students. For the last California Standards Tests, Huff was amazing for these students (and all others). With the new standards test, I'm sure the Huff community will continue doing well. How to administratively clone Heidi's style throughout the district, I don't know. But LCFF 20% Supplementary Grant $$ and principal mentoring can help.
these are my own opinions

3 people like this
Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2015 at 11:00 am

I can't imagine ANY SCHOOL having dedicated GATE funds of $180,000!!! GATE funding is extremely low and most schools receive less than $5,000 per year. Furthermore, GATE funding does not carry over from one year to the next!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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