In late July, the Pulaski Community School District welcomed Matt Smith as its new high school principal. Smith has 28 years in education, which include nine years as an English teacher at Neenah High School, nine years as an associate principal at Neenah High School, and the past 10 years as the director of Secondary Education in the Kaukauna School District.
“We are delighted that Matt has joined our team of learning leaders,” said PCSD Superintendent Allison Space. “From his experiences, his system’s thinking will definitely be a benefit to our high school staff and students. Matt is already digging into the work by meeting with his team at the high school.”
Smith attended Winneconne High School until his senior year when his family moved from Winchester to Neenah, where he graduated from Neenah High School in 1989. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English education with a minor in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, followed by a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. He then earned principal and director of instruction licensures from what was then called Marion College. He later earned his superintendent licensure from Marion University. He student taught at Neenah High School and was subsequently offered a permanent full-time teaching position.
Smith had been recently interviewing for superintendent positions, but a LinkedIn message from a former student thanking him for making a difference in his life 20 years ago led him to think again about the next step in his career:
“That really made me reflect on what I’m doing and why I am in this business in the first place. It’s all about helping kids.” Smith said his experience at the Kaukauna School District has been great, however, he was more removed from building day-to-day relationships with students. He wanted to get back in the building level and work more directly with students and staff. “When I thought about what I really wanted to do… That’s what I want to do, make a difference in kids’ lives.”
Jennifer Gracyalny, assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning, said the interview team is excited to have Smith join the Pulaski Community School District learning leaders:
“He brings a multitude of experiences, which will serve our high school and district well, most recently serving as a director of Secondary Education, previously an associate principal and high school English teacher. He is eager to be back working more closely with high school students in this role as the PHS principal.”
“Through the interview process, his compassion and passion for all students in their academics and social-emotional learning at high levels as well as ensuring our young adults are college, career and community ready was very evident,” Gracyalny added.
Matt’s wife, JoEllen, is a special education teacher in Kaukauna. They have two children, a daughter, Madeleine, who is a sophomore at UWGB, and a son, Nick, a senior at Kaukauna High School.