When Canal Winchester Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith walks out the doors at 100 Washington St. for the final time on Dec. 31, she will leave behind a significant imprint on the district she has led for six years.
Known for working long days, including weekends, Miller-Smith is credited by school board President Debra Waites with building relationships between the schools and many businesses, bringing new programs to the district and "hiring some of the finest staff."
"She has improved and expanded our communication with the community, something that we had been striving for," Waites said. "She brought us our 'excellent with distinction' rating. She has left her mark on about everything she has touched."
Miller-Smith is concluding a 30-year career in education. Before becoming superintendent of Canal Winchester's schools, she was assistant superintendent of Southwest Licking Schools for four years and served as an assistant principal in the Canal Winchester district for two years.
"I have worked with three superintendents over my 11 years serving on the board and I have never witnessed this unwavering commitment before that she possesses. It is evident in everything she does," Waites said.
"She has never forgotten the reason she was our superintendent: to see that we continued to offer the best schools possible for our students and community."
During Miller-Smith's tenure, the district received its first 'excellent with distinction' rating on the Ohio Department of Education's state report card and reviewed the efficiency of every department in the district to tighten its belt during challenging financial times.
In order to balance the budget for the 2011-2012 school year, the board was forced to cut $3.7 million from the budget and implemented a series of cost-saving measures. As a result, approximately 50 teachers and support staff members lost their jobs.
"Definitely the most difficult part of the job as Canal Winchester superintendent was the financial demands that faced the district that grew significantly over the past decade," Miller-Smith said. "State funding has decreased, our expenses increased and our only option to fund our programs was asking the community for increased taxes or renewed taxes."
During these struggles, Miller-Smith worked diligently, according to Waites, to get a school levy renewed and looked for ways to balance the district's budget. Eventually, the levy passed in 2011, but the district was unable to restore the lost positions.
"Levy defeats, program and employee cuts are difficult to implement and difficult for the community to accept," Miller-Smith said. "Through it all, I've kept the reality of our situation in perspective and feel we respected the community as it voiced its decisions."
Those tough decisions, Waites said, weighed heavily on the superintendent, both professionally and personally.
"She tried to come up with any way she could think of to keep a teacher here, but continue to be financially responsible to our community," Waites said.
Despite the difficulties, Miller-Smith said she will miss the people and the challenge when she retires.
She said she is proud of the district's work to increase student achievement, provide challenging academic opportunities for students, the establishment of partnerships with community groups and the city government, and the creation of a financial stability plan to keep a handle on expenses.
During her retirement, Miller-Smith said she plans to spend time relaxing with her husband, three adult children and friends.
Still, she said she hopes that even after she walks out the door for the final time, her colleagues and the community will remember her dedication to improving learning opportunities for Canal Winchester students.
"I think this district is a far better district for having Kim here these past years. She has continually moved us forward," Waites said.