Hal Smith retires after nearly 30 years in Park City School District
Thursday morning, High School Principal Hal Smith announced his retirement after working for the Park City School District since January, 1977.
"I just think it’s a good time, I think it’s an appropriate time in order to make a nice transition for the next school year," Smith said.
"I think it’s a good time for a new start, changes have to occur. I truly believe that in a system it’s the system that’s important the kids need the very best of all of us and they deserve our full 100 percent effort and this gives them that without me having to think about other things. I’ve always told teachers that if they have lost their passion and can’t give 100 percent they should not hang around, I just don’t believe in that," he said. "If I didn’t practice that I would feel like a hypocrite."
Assistant Principal, Hilary Hays said with the recent passing of Smith’s mother he needs to rejuvenate.
"He needs to give to himself right now," she said.
Smith’s home is currently up for sale and his retirement plans include travel, volunteer work and possibly going back to school or entering politics.
"I just think there are lots of options open to me at this time," Smith said.
Smith, a native Parkite, is the son of a miner and was born at the Miner’s Hospital. He grew up across from where Park City Mountain Resort is today. He began school at Marsac Elementary and graduated from Park City High School in 1972. After finishing college, Smith returned to the Park City School District to work as a teacher.
"I always wanted to be a teacher, I always felt passionate about education. I just think it’s the bedrock of citizenship. I just think it’s the fundamental aspect of the way our economy works and the way it improves," Smith said.
During his 16 years as a teacher Smith taught a variety of subjects including social studies, health, and journalism.
He started the advanced placement U.S. History program at Park City High School and the National Honor’s Society. Smith also helped organize the high school’s Parent Teacher Student Association. During his career he has overseen major renovations to the high school building, and had originally hoped to see the high school through its latest remodel.
"As everything, it will move on. The high school will move on, people will come forward, they will step up and do what’s necessary," Smith said.
Part of him, he said, will miss the work.
"I’m like Pavlov’s dog, when you ring the bell they start salivating," he said.
Smith still gets excited about education, but is humble about what he contributed to the district over the last 29 years.
"I never take personal credit for anything, it’s always a group. There are individuals who make tremendous contributions, but they can’t do that without the people around them," he said.
Jim Santy, also Park City native, has known Smith since he was a child.
"He always gives everybody else the credit, which is an outstanding feature," Santy said.
Santy had Smith as a student for two years during middle school and said he never suspected Smith would become a teacher.
"I thought he would probably become President of the United States, I knew of no limit to his ability," Santy said.
Later, Santy worked with Smith on different occasions.
"He’s the greatest administrator I’ve every worked with, bar none," he said and credits that to, "his love of education, his compassion for students and his honesty."
Citing his commitment to students, Santy said they were Smith’s top priority.
"The students always came first, his whole demeanor with students he wanted all of his students to succeed," Santy said adding that Smith was a very effective teacher and his pupils always learned when they were in his classroom.
Santy was also a friend of Smith’s parents.
"I think that they were very proud of his accomplishments," Santy said. "I think he had offers to go other places in education and thought there is no place like Park City."
He readily acknowledges the contributions Smith made in his 29 years.
"I think we owe him a great deal of thanks for all he’s given to us," Santy said.
Smith’s colleagues concur and say he will be missed.
"I really like Hal. I’m really going to miss him, he always went the extra mile," said Head Secretary Barbara Swenson.
Swenson worked with Smith for four years. She said in that time he always put together a luncheon for the teachers at the beginning of the year. He also helped her with office work whenever he had a few moments to spare. Swenson added that Smith always wrote letters of recommendations for the students and during quarrels he always made sure to listen to both sides.
"I just think he was one of those people that wasn’t over demanding, he made it a pleasant place to work," she said.
Smith often took on heavy load, according to Swenson.
"A lot of times he took on more than he should have," she said.
Jim Fleming, a social studies teacher at the high school remembers seeing Smith at a teachers strike in 1986, where he gave an impassioned speech on behalf of the teachers. Fleming said his passion was inspiring and calls it his "favorite Hal moment."
He added that Smith was a very diplomatic administrator.
"He’s quite comfortable and capable in those situations that tend to be emotional or emotionally demanding, he was always strong," he said.
As a witness to Smith’s announcement Fleming said Smith spoke a lot about the importance of education.
"He thought it was time to go because he couldn’t give what he needed to give anymore," Fleming said.
Tim Jeffrey, who now works at Treasure Mountain International Middle School was a special education teacher at the high school for eight years. He said Smith came up with the extra money he needed for students rooms during the State Golf Championships, but more importantly Smith always made himself available.
"He was great, his door was always open. If you had a question or a concern he would drop what he was doing and help you out. In eight years I don’t think I ever saw his door closed," Jeffrey said.
Hays also worked with Smith for eight years. In that time, one of her fondest memories of Smith was seeing him dance on the football field after a game when the band played, "Will you be my Girl."
"That’s one of my favorite moments because he was so free and happy," Hays said.
He also sang to her once at a staff meeting. Smith also left little trinkets for teachers in their boxes, as a way of saying thank you to them.
"He’s famous for putting things in your box that you’ll never use to make you smile," she said.
Hays commented that Smith’s work ethic was unparalleled and he invested thousands of dollars of his own money back into the school.
Smith also invested time into the student council.
"Hal is very close to our student council and he takes the time to have long thoughtful conversations with those kids. They come back year after year to talk to him," Hays said.
In the eight years they worked together Hays formed a very high opinion of Smith.
"He’s funny and kind, he’s extraordinary," she said. "Nobody cares about education and kids and Park City High School like Hal Smith does. He’s a legend in the district and always will be."
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