Hidden Creek tabs Smith as new principal

An ideal day for Laura Smith might be hiking with her family or reading a book.

That diversity also reflects the career of Hidden Creek Elementary School’s new principal.

Smith, 46, has served as an assistant principal at Sidney Glen Elementary the last two years and replaces Jean de la Peña, who is retiring after seven years at Hidden Creek.

“I’m excited about moving up, trying out something new and taking on a new level of leadership at a school with a great reputation,” said Smith, adding that she wants to focus on building relationships within the school and the community during her first year.

Fortunately, that has already begun with the former.

“The staff has been really warm and welcoming,” she said.

Smith began her transition from a classroom teacher to adminstrator in 2005 when she enrolled in the Principal Certification Program at Seattle Pacific University. She earned her certification in 2008. Smith also worked as an administrative intern at Esquire Hills Elementary School in the Central Kitsap School District in 2007-08.

“It’s good to have experience as a classroom teacher,” Smith said. “That gives me the understanding and the day-to-day feel for what’s going on in the classroom.”

Sidney Glen principal Jason Shdo said Smith has a balance between her home life and education and brings that perspective to the position. Smith was a stay-at-home mother with her three children from 1986-97 before resuming her career.

“She looks at any given situation through the eyes of a parent,” Shdo said.

Between full-time and substitute assignments, Smith has taught kindergarten through eighth grade. From 2005-08, she served as an elementary learning specialist at Esquire Hills and Tracyton, where her roles included staff development and assessing students’ academic abilities.

“She’s an exceptional instructional leader,” Shdo said. “She will continue to set a very high standard for learning there.”

With that background, Smith is excited to work with some of the alternative classrooms at Hidden Creek, such as the Quest Program. The district’s Highly Capable Program is open to third- through sixth-graders throughout SKSD.

“I’m excited about experiencing that at a closer level,” Smith said. “We sent kids to it, but I’ve never seen them in action.”

In addition to her education background, she also shares a common bond with many families in Kitsap County. Smith’s husband, D.J., is a commanding officer of a ship in California for the Coast Guard. Their son, Chris, 22, recently graduated from the Coast Guard Academy and now is stationed in Hawaii.

“It’s a big part of who I am and a big part of my culture,” said Smith, who also has two daughters. Lacy, 23, is a high-school math teacher, and Kimberlee, 20, is in nursing school in Oregon.

“I think Hidden Creek has a fairly big military population, as does most of the schools in this area,” she said. “That is a good fit for me.”

The couple likes the area so much that they have decided to make it their permanent home when D.J. retires in a few years, she said.

“We were stationed here in 2003 and said this is where we want to stay,” Smith said. “We just fell in love with it. There’s so much to offer here. You can hop a ferry to Seattle, drive over the Olympic Mountains — everything is accessible. It suits our lifestyle.”

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