PENNSBURY >> The Pennsbury School Board on April 15 voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Thomas Smith as the district’s next superintendent of schools.
As soon as the board cast its vote, spontaneous applause filled the Pennsbury meeting room inside the Fallsington Elementary School during a hybrid Zoom and in-person school board meeting.
“Congratulations Dr. Smith. We’re thrilled to welcome someone with your experience, passion and commitment to education,” said board President Christine Toy-Dragoni.
Smith, the superintendent of Hopewell Valley Regional School District in Pennington, New Jersey, will be paid a starting salary of $210,000 a year by Pennsbury under a five year contract with the district.
“I’m really proud to join a district and a board that is so passionate about the things I care about, mainly equity and social and emotional learning for our students,” said Dr. Smith. “I’m excited to be a part of that and excited to move forward. I pledge to you my full support of Pennsbury. And I’d like to thank (Superintendent) Dr. William Gretzula who has reached out and has pledged his support for a smooth transition.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Smith continued. “I thank you for your support and your willingness to give me a shot.”
Smith, who describes himself as “approachable, dedicated and caring,” will take the reins of the district effective on or before August 1, replacing Dr. William Gretzula who announced his intentions to retire last fall.
“With the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and the board, we worked really hard to identify great candidates and I think we really did find the best,” said board member Joshua Waldorf. “This is very exciting.”
Prior to the vote, board member TR Kannan surprised Dr. Smith by introducing three of his New Jersey colleagues who made it a point to attend the meeting and to publicly congratulate Pennsbury on its selection.
“Your gain is our loss. You are very lucky to hire Dr. Smith and to bring him to the Pennsbury community. As an educator there is no one finer,” said David Aderhold, superintendent of the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, speaking on behalf of the Mercer County Association of School Administrators.
“He’s an advocate for students, he’s an advocate for his educators,” said Aderhold. “He’s united Mercer County in joint causes around equity, diversity and inclusion, around creating shared programming, around student mental health and well being.
“We’ve united around traumatic loss and supported one another and supported our colleagues across the communities,” added Aderhold. “He’s a true leader. This will be a tremendous loss for our county and a tremendous gain for your community.”
Michael Nitti, the superintendent of the Ewing Township Public School District, echoed his colleague and added his congratulations to Pennsbury “for bringing a great educator above all else” to the district.
“Tom,” he said, “is a tremendous man of integrity. Above all else you get a great guy and you get a guy who really cares about kids.
“I’d also like to offer my congratulations to Tom. We will miss him tremendously in Mercer County. As David said, Mercer County’s loss is your gain.”
Dr. Scott Rocco, the superintendent of the Hamilton Township Public School District, added his congratulations to the district and to Smith.
“During the pandemic Tom brought us together,” Rocco said. “When we needed a leader Tom was there. When we needed help with something Tom was there. You are getting that person here who will help you, who will lead you.
“I don’t know many superintendents who would bring out three superintendents to come to somebody else’s board meeting. We have plenty of our own,” added Rocco. “That point alone tells you how much Tom means to us.
“My colleagues have said we are going to miss him. That’s true, Tom. We will miss you,” Rocco said. “But you (the Pennsbury School District) are getting an outstanding person and educator that we are honored to come here tonight and give you a little bit of what he has meant to us and what he will mean to you as a school district and as a community.”
Dr. Smith has worked as a teacher, coach, and at all levels of administration in both small and large school districts. He currently serves as Superintendent of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District in Pennington, N.J. He also teaches graduate-level courses in education.
Dr. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, two master’s degrees in education from The College of New Jersey, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Seton Hall University. He serves as the president of the Mercer County Administrators Association for the past seven years and was named Mercer County Superintendent of Year in 2018.
Dr. Smith’s recent work has focused on social-emotional learning and providing mental health programs for students. His other efforts include improving the cultural competency of staff and students and improving academic opportunities for all students. He lives with his wife and three children in Allentown, NJ.