RBHS taps Hinsdale Central for its new assistant principal

Kristin Smetana edged out two internal candidates for position

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By BOB SKOLNIK

Updated May 1, 2012, 12:45 p.m.

Riverside-Brookfield High School has once again tapped Hinsdale Central High School to find a new top administrator.

Last week the District 208 school board, in a unanimous vote, approved Kristin Smetana as the school's next assistant principal of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Smetana, who is currently the chairwoman of the math department at Hinsdale Central High School, will officially begin work at RBHS on July 1. She will replace Tim Scanlon, who is retiring.

Smetana has been teaching for seven years, all at Hinsdale Central, and has served as chairwoman of the math department for two years.

"It's not how long she's been in the field, but what she's done in the time that she's had," said RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma, who played the key role in hiring Smetana. "Age isn't really the issue. It's what you believe and your vision and what you do that really matters."

Bylsma was an assistant principal at Hinsdale Central before coming to RBHS. She has worked with Smetana and said that Smetana demonstrated her talent quickly. She compared Smetana to Kevin Skinkis, who was 34 when he was named superintendent of RBHS last year, in that respect.

"It's unusual for someone to advance in a career as quickly as her," Bylsma said. "It's unusual in Kevin's case [too], but it's possible and it can happen."

At Hinsdale Central, Bylsma was on the hiring committee that interviewed Smetana when she was promoted to math department chairwoman.

"She is incredibly bright," Bylsma said. "With that, she's analytical and perceptive. She carefully looks at all angles of a situation or predicament or complex reality, dissects it carefully, and is very thoughtful in her response."

While at Hinsdale Central Smetana did much of the work developing an Internet Safety program, working with Bylsma.

Smetana already has accomplished much in her career.

In December, she attended a White House conference of board-certified teachers convened by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the future of the teaching profession. In 2008, she won a Fulbright scholarship and spent three weeks in Japan observing that country's education system.

Smetana graduated from the University of Illinois, where she majored in math and minored in Spanish. She earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from National Louis University and a certificate of advanced study in educational administration and leadership from the University of Illinois.

This fall she plans to begin a doctoral program in education at University of Illinois at Chicago, where she plans to study educational psychology. She is also a National Board Certified math teacher.

Smetana said that she decided to go into administration so she could have a wider impact than as a classroom teacher.

"I love collaborating with teachers and providing professional development opportunities to help them develop and improve their instructional strategies," Smetana said. "If I can help one teacher improve their instructional methods I know that I have an impact on hundreds of students for years to come."

Part of her job at Hinsdale Central was developing a program targeting at-risk students called STEPS (Students Taking Educational Progress Seriously), which matched at risk students with teacher mentors. The students would meet with their mentors weekly.

"I created that program at Hinsdale Central, and I trained the mentor teachers and I oversaw that program," Smetana said. "I believe that all students can learn and achieve the standards that are set for them if they are given the time and support they need."

Smetana may also serve as a department chair at RBHS in addition to serving as an assistant principal.

"We're still working on that, but there could be a chance she could supervise one department," Skinkis said.

That department would not be math, Bylsma said.

Smetana received a 12-month contract that will pay her a base salary of $106,000. That does not include pension contributions made on her behalf by the district.

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