Eric J. Smith, the former Anne Arundel school superintendent, has landed a new job at the College Board, the nonprofit group responsible for the SAT test and Advanced Placement programs in high schools.
Smith's hard-charging style during his 3 1/2 -year tenure in Anne Arundel was credited with helping raise test scores but also eventually turning teachers and school board members against him, culminating in his abrupt resignation in 2005.
As his relationship with the school board soured that year, speculation and rumors swirled as to where Smith, a nationally renowned educator, might go next. Even before his resignation, some headhunters speculated that he would be a candidate to run the Boston school system or become state superintendent in Delaware.
Instead, after Smith's last day in Anne Arundel on Nov. 23, 2005, he left for an unpaid position at Harvard University's graduate education school as a superintendent in residence -- a slot that allowed him to work broadly as a consultant.
During his six months at Harvard, Smith said last week in a phone interview, he began helping the College Board with a project to increase the number of college-bound students from urban areas. Smith had been a College Board trustee and chairman of its board for several years.
He helped the College Board prepare a grant application for the new Excelerator school program. After the program secured funding from the Gates Foundation and was launched last summer, Smith was hired at the College Board as senior vice president for college readiness systems.
"It was a very good fit for me -- a continuation of efforts I made in Anne Arundel and before that in Charlotte," he said.
When he became superintendent in Anne Arundel in 2002, Smith was given an unprecedented $300,000 in salary and benefits. He was also charged with saving a system that had seen its ranking on statewide tests drop from 6th to 16th.
Smith pushed his philosophy of increasing access to demanding coursework, especially in struggling schools. Students improved across the board on the Maryland School Assessment test, and the achievement gap between races narrowed.
Many parents in the community loved him. Teachers, however, said he increased their workload while inadequately raising their pay. School board members who clashed with Smith accused him of keeping them in the dark.
The final straw came with an internal audit that found questionable business practices within the school system's human resources department. The audit sparked public acrimony between Smith and the board and led to his resignation.
Smith said he has no sore feelings about how his tenure in Anne Arundel ended. "I don't keep up with it on a day-to-day basis, but I have a lot of good feelings about Anne Arundel, and my experience there was very positive," he said.
Asked whether he would take another job as superintendent, Smith quickly responded: "Superintendency is the best job in the world, the best way to impact educators and kids.
"At the same time, I'm very happy where I am, and I'm planning on staying for the long haul."
-- William Wan