New Lilja Principal has Collaborative Style
Heather Smith plans on arriving in Natick looking to work together with teachers, parents and students to identify Lilja's needs and build from there.
Last week Natick Patch reported the hiring of Heather Smith as the new principal at the Lilja School.
We recently had a chance to speak with Smith, who is excited to begin working in Natick.
Patch: There were three other excellent finalists for the Lilja School principal position. What do you think put you over the top?
Smith: When I first made the decision to move into educational leadership I saw myself as a principal. I’ve had the opportunity to engage with curriculum. At Lilja I’ll be spending more time focusing on curriculum. I started as a reading/literacy specialist. I think that’s important, not just in younger children, but older kids too. I knew I wanted to get into leadership.
Patch: You’ve worked with students of all ages [note: Smith has worked at the junior college, high school and middle school levels, in addition to elementary school]. Why do you like working at the elementary school level?
Smith: When I was in college at Wheaton during my junior year I did research with a faculty member with elementary school students and peer reading relationships. I observed discrepancies and strengths.
A lot of research indicates Kindergarten is the most important year in education. I also love the age group. It’s been a pleasure working with the children in Mansfield.
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Patch: You’ll be arriving in Natick as the principal at Lilja, making you the leader of the school. How will you go about working with the faculty and staff when you arrive?
Smith: My leadership style is very collaborative. I’ve developed teacher leader teams in Mansfield. I’m big on intervention steering, social emotional needs and bullying prevention.
I think the teachers (at Jordan/Jackson Elementary School, where she is currently the assistant principal) would describe my style as collaborative. I see trust as important. What do teachers want support with and what can we do to make the school better? We’re reading research and setting goals together. Lilja seemed like they have very skilled teachers. It’s important to collaborate and focus on improving.
Patch: Have you thought about what some of the first things you want to do when you start July 1?
Smith: I anticipate a lot of time getting to know the teachers, principal and parents. A lot of them have reached out to me already. One thing is working on understanding the building’s needs. I’m going to develop an entry plan and share it with Dr. Sanchioni and the teachers. I’ll set goals. That’s how we’ll see if we’re making progress. The teachers need to be engaged in this process. We work better together.
More from Smith: I really believe strongly in building strong relationships. We also need to provide support to parents. They know their children best.
I love the energy of the students.
It’s important that [students] see what I do so the principal can be someone they say ‘hi’ to.