Daughter’s story inspires new Arlington ISD superintendent’s mission to serve all students

dfwnewsa | February 28, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Daughter’s story inspires new Arlington ISD superintendent’s mission to serve all students

Arlington ISD Superintendent Matt Smith poses in his office Feb. 28, 2024, at the district’s Administration Building. Smith came to Arlington after three years as superintendent at Belton ISD. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)
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A teacher. A father. A superintendent. 

Arlington ISD Superintendent Matt Smith has taken on those roles throughout his life. Each role, at some point, challenges him to reframe his mindset. Combined, they have helped him form a core thesis for what matters most to him. 

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Smith wants all students — no matter their performance at school or their challenges in life — to have a pathway to success. 

Smith, 48, began leading one of the largest school districts in Texas on Jan. 30. Students at Arlington ISD are slowly recovering from the learning loss induced by the pandemic. The district is projected to have a more than $40 million budget deficit in the next academic year. As pandemic relief funds expire, he will also be dealing with job cuts and how they will affect the students. 

Yet, that won’t deter Smith from guiding the district to strive for better. 

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“I always want to push us in public education … to really examine: Are we really including every student? Are we really checking ourselves and … providing options and opportunities and pathways for every student on the campus to be engaged?” he said. 

A teacher

Smith grew up around educators. 

“I really want every student that walks through our door in the morning to have something they’re looking forward to in the day that’s gonna brighten their eyes and get them excited about a learning experience,”Arlington ISD Superintendent Matt Smith

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His mother and his cousin are teachers. One of his uncles was his high school principal. He had an aunt and another uncle who were also teachers — one was an elementary school educator, and the other taught in high school. Yet another aunt and uncle were in higher education.

Smith taught English in high school and was also an athletics coach, which allowed him to see from both inside and outside the classroom how to help students thrive, he said.

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Along the way, he received suggestions to become an administrator. So, Smith pursued a master’s degree in Arizona. 

The experience made him realize the depth and breadth of a teacher’s impact on students. 

“It’s not necessarily about teaching content to students. It’s about meeting students where they are so that students know that they’re cared for, supported and challenged in that classroom to grow and learn and stretch their brains,” Smith said. 

Board Vice President Justin Chapa hopes Smith’s experience will enrich the district. 

“I’m hopeful that his background outside of AISD and teacher-centered approach will pay dividends for our staff and students for years to come,” Chapa said. 

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