Getting ready for the school year

Published 9:41 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2004

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
School begins next week and people are getting ready. Students have their lists of things to buy and do, while those in charge are gearing up to get back into the swing of things.
Lynn Smith, the Superintendent of Education for the Brewton City School System, can be found in his office getting everything lined up for the some 1,400 students that will be in class this year in Brewton.
Smith and Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Baxter Baker are certified teachers, the only ones working in the superintendent's office on Belleville. They split a number of jobs ranging from federal programs, training, testing, transportation and other things that come up.
A larger school system has department heads to handle a lot of things that come up, but those things have to be handled by either Smith or Baker in Brewton.
The superintendent's office oversees around 105 teachers and around 50 support personnel such as lunch room workers, maintenance workers, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and others.
Smith is in charge of the bus system. He routes the buses and takes care of any problems that come up. Brewton has maintenance workers to work on the buses, but it is such a small system that it is not set up to have both workers and executive positions. Smith handles that job himself. He makes sure that the six bus routes are up to date and that the buses are always in the best condition. The system will get another new bus this year and on an average gets one every other year.
Technology is another of Smith's jobs. The schools have about 500 computers which means that there is one computer for every three students.
Not only are the changes coming faster and faster, but Smith sees teachers having to work to stay up with what is going on. Teachers who have been around long enough to know what the first computers would do are trying to stay up to date, while new teachers don't have a clue what it was like to have a computer with only 486 MG of memory.
One of the things Smith is working toward is a website that will enable the community be be more a part of the school system. The school has purchased a computer program that will allow teachers to get information any time they can find to sit down to the computer.
Smith says that he sees the day when the school year will be extended. The amount of days of attendance won't change from 175 days, but the school season would go a longer time while giving more breaks along the way. Students involved in playing in the band or playing football have to go back early anyway, so why not have the schools open.
The job Smith has is enormous and it takes a dedicated person to be able to handle it. Those who have children in the city school system have a lot of reasons to be thankful that they have someone who is as dedicated as he is.
Smith was born in an old World War II hospital in Tuscaloosa. He attended the public school system there and graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1971. It was only right that he should attend the University of Alabama. He graduated in 1976 with a degree in special education. It was while he was in college that he met his wife, Robin, whom he married in 1977.
He got his first job teaching in Pensacola at a special education school dealing with disabilities and stayed a short while. He returned to Tuscaloosa and he and Robin taught while attending school. Both of them earned their masters degree in special education.
A law was passed that all Alabama kids' needs had to be served. At that time the Brewton school system was using a professor at the University to get everything set up to meet those needs. That professor recommended Lynn Smith to come in as the special education coordinator.
Smith and his wife moved to Brewton in 1979 where he took a job with the city and Robin went to work with the Escambia County School System as a gifted student teacher. The next year the city system decided to implement a gifted class and she was brought in to run it. She later served as guidance counselor at Brewton Elementary School for 13 years before retiring last year after 23 years of teaching.
At the same time the family was growing. The Smiths have three daughters, Cile, born in 1980, Lindsey in 1984 and Kara in 1988.
Smith went to T.R. Miller High School in 1988 as the assistant principal serving with Principal Frank Cotten. In 1991 when City Superintendent Dale Garnert, retired, Smith was appointed by the city school board to his current post.
He and his wife are active members of First Baptist Church of Brewton where he is a deacon. Time prevents him from doing a lot of the things he once did. He says that he used to fish, play golf and other things, but his work has taken over much of his life and he wouldn't have it any other way.