Alesia Smith, the Pine Bluff School District Systemic Improvement Officer, has been nominated for the Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education. Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Michael Robinson touted Smith at Tuesday night’s Pine Bluff School Board meeting for working hard and being a deserving nominee for the prize.

“We want to recognize Miss Alesia Smith … and we are going to salute Miss Smith because we know that she is well deserving of that award,” Robinson, who has a doctorate in educational leadership, said. “And it is an outstanding award for K-12 educators.”

This prize exemplifies the commitment to learning, discipline, character-building, and high expectations that characterized Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, California, when Jaime Escalante taught there and Henry Gradillas was its principal, according to prize was established in 2014 by

Smith came to the Pine Bluff School District in 2014 as an academic improvement officer through a University of Virginia turnaround program designed to improve struggling schools. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Smith had been working for the Cincinnati Public School District in a similar capacity and visited Pine Bluff to share success stories.

Smith has now been an educator for a total of 27 years: 10 years as a classroom teacher and 17 years as an administrator. Smith said she does not know who nominated her.

“I got a letter saying that they have gone through thousands of nominations and they’ve narrowed it down to less than 50,” Smith, who earned a master’s degree from Xavier University, said. “You create a video or a Facebook page to show what you’ve accomplished over the time you’ve been in education.”

The notion of educators accomplishing more with fewer resources permeates education and coincides with this award.

“You think about doing something Saturday morning, or Friday afternoon,” Smith said. “Or maybe we can give incentives to kids; teach kids about their data. … How do I motivate kids? How do I motivate teachers? What does that look like?”

When Smith arrived in Pine Bluff in 2014, she oversaw the lowest-performing schools: Oak Park Elementary School, Jack Robey Junior High School, Pine Bluff High School, and Belair Middle School. Oak Park, Pine Bluff High, and Belair have since improved to warrant removal from the academic distress list. Jack Robey has improved from an “F” to a “C.”

“You’ve had a tremendous amount of growth in a short amount of time,” Smith said. “I am planning to stay until God tells me something different. I believe that we have assignments and I think our assignment takes us to different places. I am here to learn from people and also to give them what I know has worked over the years to increase student achievement and the whole child.”

In other news, Robinson thanked the CEC for bestowing him an outstanding educator award last week. He thanked the CEC for its work in the community.

In other news, Pine Bluff School Board President Henry Dabner thanked all pastors especially the Rev. Derrick Easter at New Saint Hurricane Baptist Church. They held an Easter Sunday worship service at Lake Saracen as part of the Ministerial Alliance Group.

“They raised in excess of one thousand dollars for our band,” Dabner said.

In discipline news, the board voted to expel a student who brought a gun to Pine Bluff High School.

In personnel news, the board approved these actions:The hiring of Joyce Sanders as a special education paraprofessional at Belair Middle School, Deric Shaw as a federal programs bookkeeper; Theophilus Smith as a security officer at Pine Bluff High School; and April Williams as a security officer at Pine Bluff High School;The resignations of Ashley Cleaves as a social studies teacher at Pine Bluff High School and Easter Fuller as an elementary teacher at Broadmoor Elementary School;The retirement of Louise Sullivan as a guidance counselor at Pine Bluff High School.