Dr. Kevin J. Smith named new superintendent

After extensive searching, recruitment and interviewing, Wilton Public Schools has a new educator-in-chief.

Dr. Kevin J. Smith, current superintendent of Bethel Public Schools, was selected by Wilton’s search committee, which announced its recommended successor of Dr. Gary Richards at the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6.

The search committee hired executive search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) to implement a comprehensive superintendent search process that included planning, recruitment and interviewing.

More than 500 Wilton residents took part in an online survey describing traits and characteristics they would like their future superintendent to have. Many cited instructional method, communication style, technological innovation, community involvement, and assessment and evaluation.

The search started with 53 recruits, which was eventually narrowed down to a final list of five possible candidates — two from New Jersey, two from Connecticut and one from New York.

“I was contacted by the consultants that the Wilton Board of Education hired to conduct the search,” Dr. Smith said Monday.

“Apparently, there were some folks in the Wilton community who recommended that I be one of the people they contact. It was very flattering; I was very surprised.”

Gil Bray and Karen Birck of the search committee told the Board of Education Dr. Smith exemplified all the traits referenced by the survey takers.

“Dr. Smith is passionate about academic excellence, highly collaborative, understands the Common Core, and has driven, clear vision that focuses on the children,” said Mr. Bray.

Education board member Lory Rothstein said Dr. Smith has a good understanding of the issues before him.

“He understands the challenging district he’d be coming to and the high expectations,” said Ms. Rothstein. “The Wilton community will love and support him as long as those expectations are met.”

Bruce Likly, chair, said he spoke to the chair of the Bethel Board of Education about Dr. Smith’s potential transfer to Wilton.

“The Bethel Board of Education clearly loved the relationship they had built with Dr. Smith. I think Dr. Smith will make a fantastic addition to our schools,” said Mr. Likly.

Dr. Smith said he is looking forward to meeting members of the community.

“What’s most important for me, as I transition into the community, is to really get to know the community very well — the teachers, the kids, the parents and the Board of Education members,” said Dr. Smith.

“It always takes a little while in a transition like this to develop relationships and establish trust — that’s going to be my very first priority.”

Dr. Smith received his undergraduate degree in political science from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1995 and his master’s in educational leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange Village, N.J., in 2001.

He taught second, third and seventh grade at Our Lady Queen of Angels Elementary School in Newark, N.J.

Dr. Smith worked as the assistant principal at Sacred Heart School in the Bronx, N.Y., for three years, and then as the school’s principal from 2003 to 2006.

In 2006, Dr. Smith graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx with a doctorate in educational leadership. He has also worked as an adjunct professor at the university.

Before becoming superintendent of Bethel Public Schools in 2011, Dr. Smith became principal of Bethel Middle School in the summer of 2006.

During his tenure, the middle school was annually recognized by ConnCan (Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now) as one of the top 10 schools for closing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged or minority students.

Dr. Smith said he views his transition to Wilton as more of an opportunity than a challenge.

“Wilton has a fabulous reputation for education in the state and the country, so I’m going to be working very hard to understand all the different aspects that make it such a strong community,” said Dr. Smith.

“I’m really looking forward to understanding the strengths of the school district and working with the staff to try to capitalize on their strengths and take Wilton to the next level.”

Dr. Smith lives in Trumbull with his wife, Jennifer, and their five children.