The Times (Shreveport, LA)
November 26, 1999 Friday
After 20 years of service in Bossier Parish, Jane Smith leaves to
be a state representative
SECTION: FRONT; Pg. 1A
by Stephaan Harris
People dropping by the office of Bossier Parish schools Superintendent
Jane Smith last week almost were greeted by the sight of bare, wooden
Everyone knew she was leaving her post to become state representative
for District 8. Seeing plaques, pictures and certificates in boxes seemed
to make everything final and induce a sense of professional loss among
"I don't think she can be replaced, but I foresee us going ahead,"
said School Board President Libby Cassibry, who will remember Smith
for her strong leadership, excitement and energy.
Smith will take political office next year after an uncontested race.
Monday, she officially will complete her five years as the district
Already, she is thinking about initiatives she will push, especially
those regarding education. On top of her list is letting high school
students who are not on the college track receive an alternate diploma
that requires core classes but emphasizes vocational electives.
Smith has seen many developments under her term, including the passage
of a $16.5 million school construction bond issue, local teacher salary
increases, the creation of an alternative school, an $11 million technology
initiative, character education and the expansion of an in-school suspension
program from the high school level to the middle and elementary school
At the same time, Smith's vision occasionally has rubbed some people
the wrong way. The district's mandatory uniform policy has brought two
lawsuits against the district and complaints from a vocal minority of
parents and students. Smith's push for a change in federal laws to allow
for more local control over discipline for special education students
made some groups nervous.
Her dynamic style impressed board members and helped Smith win the superintendent's
post in 1994, moving her from high school principal to the district's
first female superintendent.
The petite Smith overcame doubts she could handle discipline in her
role as assistant principal at Haughton High School, even garnering
the nickname "General Jane" for her no-nonsense approach.
It's rare you'll see her without the silver stars pinned on her clothing.
They were given to her by former Air Force Junior ROTC instructor George
Finck, who serves on the School Board.
John Castore admires Smith's magnetism. He has seen several superintendents
come and go in his 18 years as principal of Apollo Elementary School.
Smith has distinguished herself from the others, he said. Her lobbying
voters on the bond issue and support of character education are two
examples of how Smith tirelessly follows a goal, Castore said.
"When she believes something is in the best interest of the school,
she gives 110 percent," he said. "She doesn't just tell you
what to do, she works shoulder to shoulder with you."
Castore highlighted one of Smith's strong points as the ability to convince
people to buy into her vision.
Smith has visited Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C., several times to
follow and lobby for education issues. But to survive the legislative
learning curve, Smith may have to tone things down a bit and be more
observant than vocal at the beginning.
This is one of the things outgoing state Rep. Bob Barton learned. Barton,
assistant to Bossier Parish Community College chancellor, held the same
seat Smith will occupy next year. The transition from education to lawmaking
won't be too difficult, said Barton, pointing out that several legislators,
including Billy Montgomery, D-Bossier City, came from the school ranks.
The key for novices is to learn procedure and build relationships, Barton
"That will take her a little while to do. Even if you've been there
for one or two terms, it's still a matter of building coalitions,"
he said. "Someone who you don't work with today, you'll have to
work with tomorrow."
Bossier schools Curriculum Director Ann Alford has known Smith since
they were students at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
Alford has worked directly with Smith for more than 10 years. Smith
is adept at creating partnerships, she said, citing the adopt-a-school
program coordinated with the Bossier Chamber of Commerce as an example.
"I'm happy for her, but sad because she is such a good leader,"
Alford said. "We know she'll continue working for us in her new
The Jane Smith biography
Spouse: Scott Smith, Benton High School principal.
Children: One daughter, Hillary Garner, 25.
Education: Bachelor's of science degree, Northwestern State University,
1970; master's of education degree, 1971.
1980-1983: Teacher, Greenacres Middle School.
1983-1986: Teacher, Haughton High School.
1986-1988: Assistant principal, Haughton High.
1988-1995: Principal, Haughton High.
December 1994: Officially named Bossier Parish schools superintendent
by the School Board, replacing retiring W.T. Lewis.
November 1998: Selected as Louisiana Superintendent of the Year by the
Louisiana Association of School Executives.
This month: Retires as superintendent to take over uncontested District
8 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Copyright 1999 The Times (Shreveport, LA)
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