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Congratulations Rogers Principal Jason Smith
Congratulations Washington State High School Principal of the Year
Posted on 05/30/2019
Congratulations Washington State High School Principal of the Year

It was just a regular day, in a regular week, at Rogers High School on May 13 when Principal Jason Smith arrived for the weekly staff meeting.

At least that’s what he thought before he walked into the library to a standing ovation, students holding a ‘Congrats Mr. Smith’ sign, flashing cameras, and live news media broadcasting his arrival.

Jason SmithThat’s how Smith learned he had been chosen as Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year, presented by Jostens Renaissance Education. The Educator of the Year is annually awarded to individuals who have positively impacted the climate and culture of their school through Jostens Renaissance program. It is a national award and Smith was one of two recipients this year, chosen from more than 6,000 schools.

What happened to Smith the following day was equally surprising.

It started with a phone call Tuesday evening asking him to check out a video on the Association of Washington School Principals website. Smith said, ‘Okay,’ and hung up wondering what the video was about.

It turns out Smith was also chosen as the 2019 High School Principal of the Year by the AWSP. The video was the announcement of the Washington state principals of the year.

Two major awards honoring Smith in two days. They were a complete surprise to him. However, they were not a surprise to the staff who nominated him.

In the nomination for the Jostens award, Puyallup High School Renaissance teacher Jamie Mooring wrote, “Jason Smith is the kind of school administrator teachers can only dream of: he is compassionate and honest, was a great teacher himself, makes decisions based on what is best for his students and staff, and most importantly for me … he is not afraid to let go of the reins to allow for something great. He is the kind of administrator who is willing to take a leap of faith in order to make change."

The AWSP nomination for Smith included a submittal by Rogers High AVID teacher Colleen Pancake, “Jason is the heart and soul of Rogers High School and the reason our school culture is so strong. He's the true definition of a servant leader, always striving to take care of his staff and students in any way possible.”

Smith and his wife will travel to Florida in July where he will be honored during the Renaissance Educator of the Year VIP dinner and awards presentation.

As the Washington State High School Principal of the Year, he is in the running for National Principal of the Year award, and will be recognized for his accomplishment during a conference and tour of the White House in Washington, D.C. this fall. The program is sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “It’s an opportunity to represent Washington state in Washington, D.C., so that’s really special,” says Smith.

Renaissance Award
Rick Morton and Eliot Brimage from Jostens, along with Puyallup High School Renaissance teacher Jamie Mooring, presented Smith with the Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year award. Rogers staff, Superintendent Tim Yeomans, Chief Academic Officer John Parker, Smith's wife and son, and some AVID and Renaissance students were in attendance during the surprise announcement. 

Smith began working with Jostens 12 years ago as principal at Puyallup High School. After attending a conference and learning about other schools implementing the program, he decided to bring it to his school. He says Renaissance is Jostens' term for leadership.

“I think it’s kind of a philosophy in that we want to honor and recognize kids at any moment we can, and we want to honor and recognize our teachers at any moment we can. It’s about being visible in the hallways. It’s about being visible in the classroom. It’s about understanding that it’s a relationship business first. We put all that together to create a positive climate for our students. That’s the Jostens piece,” says Smith.

Examples of activities reflecting the Renaissance program are Decision Day, Career and College Fair, and the Winter Wishes program. Smith says those are the big things, but it is also about honoring students for the small things. 

“I have worked with some phenomenal teachers along the way. It’s 
touching that they give the award to me, but it is me standing on 
the shoulders of amazing teachers and amazing support staff, 
because they’re the ones that make it go.”
Rogers High School Principal Jason Smith

According to their website: “For over 25 years, Jostens Renaissance Education has helped schools across North America renew their climate and culture. This contributes to increased attendance and graduation rates, improved academic performance and behavior, higher teacher retention rates, and a boost in overall school spirit.”

2019 High School Principal of the Year
Smith was chosen as High School Principal of the Year by a panel of principals representing the Washington Association of Secondary School Administrators (WASSP), a component of the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP).  

The news release by AWSP stated: As principal of John R. Rogers for five years, Mr. Smith and his staff have adopted an "AP For All" philosophy, believing that all students should experience the rigor of an Advanced Placement class. This has increased the number of students taking AP exams by more than 30%. Mr. Smith also fully believes that one of the most important things he can do as a principal is to hire great teachers. Mr. Smith writes, "I have become very aggressive in hiring. I've come to embrace the philosophy that it is 'people not programs' that make a difference."

The High School Principal of the Year recognition is based in part on the Advanced Placement movement, Response To Intervention, and a program called CORE Flex. Smith said there are a variety of successful initiatives that contribute, such as on the spot admissions. 

I’m honored and I’m very humbled. We don’t do this work for awards or accolades. 
There are administrators in this district and across this state that are working 
just as hard as I am, if not harder, that deserve this recognition.
Rogers High School Principal Jason Smith

An educator for 25 years, Smith began his career in the Kent School District where he taught high school English for seven years, and then served as dean of students and assistant principal. He worked for the Gates Foundation, Small Learning Communities for one year before coming to Puyallup.

Jason SmithHe served as assistant principal, then principal at Puyallup High School before transferring to Rogers in 2015.

Smith and his wife Benita have two sons who have grown up in Puyallup schools. One currently attends Western Washington University and the other will be a sophomore at Rogers this fall.

When asked how it feels to receive two significant recognitions in one week, Smith laughs, “It’s just that I got lucky twice. So, I’ll be done [with recognitions] for the rest of my career.”

Nancy French