Tim Smith measured success in wins and losses when he was a coach, but he has a different philosophy as the new Clinton High School principal.
“I think in education, we put a lot into what can be measured with test scores and winning ballgames and stuff like that; we seem to make what is important because we can measure it,” he said.
“Let’s be great at what we can’t measure. First, love the kids. Of course, we’re going to compete in everything to win … academically, athletically, but then we’re going to serve — not only our students, but our community.”
That’s the brand he wants to build for the high school: “We are here to serve,” he said.
Smith, 52, who started July 1 as principal of the 400-student high school, said teachers were given an assignment this summer during in-service training. He asked them to do random acts of kindness for an hour and video them.
“It was part of serving the community; we wanted to practice what we were going to preach,” he said.
“They came up with their own ideas. The football coaches went to Walmart — they have Clinton Yellowjacket umbrellas — and walked the elderly to their cars. It was over 100 degrees. [The coaches] shaded them with umbrellas and helped unload their groceries. Those people loved that. It was good that the community saw football coaches out there helping people.”
Other projects included teachers putting stacks of quarters in the car-wash stalls with a note telling customers to to have a blessed day. Another group weeded a memorial garden in the district. He said a teacher paid for another woman’s groceries because the woman’s husband was in the hospital.
“People saw that in the community. People we didn’t even know started posting it on Facebook and saying, ‘Pass it forward.’ We felt like we started the year off right by doing that — building the brand.
“[The teachers] absolutely loved it. I think the thing they realized was, not only did they bless a lot of people in that hour; they were blessed, also, by helping people out.”
Alicia Barnard was one of those. She teaches regular and Advanced Placement world history and psychology at Clinton High School.
She said Smith told teachers he has a goal of creating a school culture based on “respect and love,” and the random-acts-of-kindness activity kick-started the theme.
She said her activity was leaving quarters at a car wash, and she said the positive feedback shows that “small random acts of kindness can make a big difference.”
Barnard called Smith “the real deal” and said he brings compassion to his role of principal.
“He inspires us to be change-makers in this community. He inspires us that we are not bound by the walls of our classrooms — our example of love and respect can resonate with students for years to come,” she said.
Melinda Love, a math teacher at Clinton High School, said she thought the random-acts-of-kindness project was “an innovative team-building idea.”
She and other teachers chipped in to buy Sonic gift cards and gave them out at the drive-in restaurant before customers had a chance to pay.
Love said she thinks Smith will do well in his role.
“I believe Mr. Smith brings a positive change to Clinton High School, and we are very excited to have him as our new principal,” she said.
Smith said he made the change from college basketball coach to secondary-level administrator when he got tired of missing family activities with his wife, Tracy, and their four children.
Smith and his wife live in Greenbrier, but he grew up in Benton. His father, Jay Smith, was a longtime DJ on radio station KSSN, and his mom, Shirley, was a stay-at-home mom, although “she was always doing something,” Smith said, including selling real estate and working at a grocery store. Smith’s parents also live in Greenbrier now.
Smith went to Bauxite High School, where Tracy was three grades ahead of him. They knew each other but didn’t date until they ran into each other later, he said.
Smith said he played all sports in high school — football, baseball and basketball — probably his weakest sport, but his favorite. His dream was to be a men’s basketball coach.
“That’s what I always wanted to do,” he said.
He went to Garland County Community College in Hot Springs and played baseball before heading to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, where he worked as a graduate assistant and majored in physical education. He was hired as the assistant men’s basketball coach, a position he held for five years.
When Reddies coach Eric Bozeman left, Smith said, he didn’t get the head-coaching job, so he took a job as boys basketball and baseball coach at Perryville High School, where he stayed for two years.
He made the transition to public school on purpose.
“I had four kids already; I realized how much I was missing. In college, you’re gone all the time. I’d spend the night in the gym sometimes.”
He wanted to be able to take his children to school, so he switched to high school to have “more family and home time.”
The couple have two sons, Robert Westerman of Greenbrier and RJ Smith, who is the girls basketball coach in Danville; two daughters, Brittany
Lines of Missouri and Katie White of Florida; and two grandchildren.
After Perryville, Smith went to South Side Bee Branch as boys basketball and baseball coach and led the Hornets to a state baseball championship in 2007.
He was there for 19 years, coaching before becoming K-12 dean of students, then high school principal. When the district was “in a bind,” Smith said, he worked as boys basketball coach while serving as principal, too.
Smith said he especially enjoyed the elementary students because they all want a hug. If he was having a bad day, he said, “I’d walk through the elementary school because they were always glad to see you,” he said.
The Clinton job was attractive for several reasons, Smith said. He replaced Kalyn Evans, who was fired in February by the board.
“Clinton, to me, is a gold mine waiting to explode,” he said. “Academics here are great. Our test scores are some of the highest in the state — the academic part is here. The agri program is one of the best in the state.”
He mentioned athletics and active school clubs, such as Beta and Future Business Leaders of America.
“The staff has been great,” he said. “We just needed that brand of us promoting it and pulling it all together. It just needs that stability, and hopefully, I can be here to do that.”
Smith said he doesn’t regret leaving coaching, as much as he loved it.
“I thought I would miss it, but I tell you what — I don’t. I love what I do now. I was ready for a change,” he said.
He’s in a new season of his life, one in which he doesn’t count wins and losses.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.