Duncan Smith will be taking over for retiring Principal Sharon Brittingham at Frankford Elementary School this year, and he recognized his predecessors for their efforts.
Frankford Elementary received numerous accolades and awards during Brittingham’s tenure, and in the most recent round of Delaware State Testing, 100 percent of both third- and fifth-graders met or exceeded state standards for reading.
“She clearly established a vision for this school,” Smith noted. “And I think the administration, faculty — and the community — have all been very supportive.
“The students have always been the number one priority, and they’ve seen a lot of success because everyone has shared that vision,” he concluded.
Smith was stationed just across town, as assistant principal at Indian River High School, before moving into the top spot at Frankford Elementary this year.
He was an administrator at Sussex Central High School before that, for three years. From approximately 1,150 students at Sussex Central, to 750 students at Indian River to 450 at Frankford — “It’s a smaller school, and obviously, the students are a lot smaller, too,” he quipped. “But it’s definitely a step up, as far as responsibilities.”
A Wilmington native, Smith earned his undergraduate degree in math education from Millersville University (Penn.) in 1993. He taught math for the Indian River School District (IRSD) for eight years, earning a Master’s degree in education leadership and instruction from Wilmington College (1997).
Smith moved into administration four years ago, but this will be his first venture into primary education.
“The focus is a little different, dealing with elementary students,” he pointed out. “Yes, you prepare them for middle school, and when they get to middle school you prepare them for high school.
“But at this level, we’re really in charge of creating an attitude that will affect the way students look at school for the rest of their lives,” Smith continued. “We want to make this as positive as possible.”
He’s been preparing for that task since exit interviews in the spring.
“I was able to come over and meet with Brittingham, talk with the teachers about what they felt the year had gone, what they needed for this year,” Smith pointed out. “And I have (Brittingham’s) phone number — she’s told me I can always give her a call.
“I’m not really going to be able to tell, until the students show up next week,” he said. “But I spent the entire summer going through files and papers, trying to get a feel for what Frankford is about.”
Smith’s student body is unique within the IRSD — ethnically split three ways between Hispanics, African-Americans and Caucasians, nearly 80 percent of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Frankford Elementary will once again host full-day kindergarten this year, as part of the state pilot program, and he said they’d received an $85,000 grant to help fund a fourth teaching position there. Other than that, he expected they’d stick with the same successful programs already in place (like the Helping One Student to Succeed, or HOSTS tutoring/mentorship program, and Project VILLAGE, which brings non-English-speaking children up to speed).
He said he’d recently learned Frankford would be one of only five schools a year receiving a “Dispelling the Myth” award from the Education Trust organization.
“Despite what many people might think of as strikes against them, our students do very well in standardized testing,” Smith noted. “And my number-one goal is to maintain the success they’ve had in the past.”