Decorated EPO principal leaves for admin position

The front office at East Port Orchard Elementary School became a shrine of glass trophies during her tenure at the school.

While those academic awards will remain, the principal who helped bring them to the school will not.

Kristi Smith, who has led EPO since 2000, will leave the school to become the director of teaching and learning in the Clover Park School District. Her final day in the South Kitsap School District is Monday.

“We have been so grateful for Kristi’s many years of service to the children of our district,” SKSD superintendent Michelle Reid said. “Her exemplary leadership will be missed and we wish her all the best in her future position.”

The awards — EPO was recognized six times as a “Distinguished School” at the state or national level during Smith’s tenure — are one reason behind her departure. That is because Smith worked with her peers to develop school-improvement plans.

“I love being a principal and I love working with the kids, but I also think one of the reasons why we’ve had such great success at EPO is the professional development and curriculum alignment,” said Smith, who earned her administrative certification from the University of Puget Sound after she obtained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Pacific Lutheran and a master’s in education from the University of Portland. “I’ve had peers and staff say, ‘Kristi, this is really a strength for you.’ This position really interested me.”

She said her new position will place her in charge of kindergarten through 12th grade materials in CPSD. Smith also will coordinate professional development for teachers and principals.

“I’ve had a chance to do a little bit of transitioning over there and I think it’s going to be a really good fit,” said Smith, noting that several former SKSD employees now work in CPSD. “I’m pretty excited about the people I’m going to be working with and the job.”

While Smith, 46, is excited to begin her new role, it will mark a change. A 1987 South Kitsap High School graduate, Smith has spent her entire career in SKSD.

Before she became principal at EPO, she taught at Mullenix Ridge and Hidden Creek elementary schools for 10 years. Her father and brother also worked in SKSD, while her husband, Norm, teaches at Hidden Creek Elementary School.

“As a family, we’ve contributed a lot to this community,” Smith said.

She said her family will continue to live here.

“I’m going to be commuting because I love South Kitsap and want to stay rooted here,” Smith said.

Paul Hurlbert, assistant principal at Union Ridge Elementary School in southwest Washington’s Ridgefield School District, was selected as Smith’s successor last week by Reid. Smith said he will inherit a school in strong shape.

“I’m very proud of the work teachers and families have done together,” she said. “We got some really great recognition for the work we did. I feel like it has made a real difference in the lives of kids and that’s something that is so important to me.

“This has been a great portion of my life at EPO. I’ll always remember it very fondly.”


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