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Superintendent Dr. Jeffery Smith wins the 2020 Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education Equity

Superintendent Dr. Jeffery Smith has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education Equity in the school leader category.
The Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education Equity highlights individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the advancement of equity in education for students in Virginia. The award offers the Commonwealth an opportunity to recognize educators, policy makers, education advocacy groups, and stakeholder organizations whose service and leadership is impacting equity outcomes for Virginia students.

The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that its public education system is positioned to achieve equitable academic outcomes for all students. As such, The Virginia Department of Education’s equity framework expresses its commitment to eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socio-economic status and/or languages spoken at home. This requires that ALL students have access to high quality learning programs that enable them to maximize their potential. Every day, all across the Commonwealth, countless individuals and organizations work tirelessly in various capacities to help achieve this goal. 

Mary Peake’s passion for education, especially in marginalized communities, and belief that education has a profound impact on students, families, and the community, is deeply rooted, literally and figuratively, in the culture of Hampton, Virginia. Jeffery Smith shows the same level of determination in advancing equitable educational opportunities and ensuring equitable outcomes for ALL students, regardless of their race, income or background. As a majority-minority school division with over 24% of students living in poverty and 62% eligible for free and reduced meals, Dr. Smith is focused on transforming teaching and learning in Hampton City Schools and implementing innovative strategies around closing the achievement, opportunity, and equity gaps that exist among marginalized student groups. By cultivating internal and external alliances, Dr. Smith continues to ensure HCS provides personalized learning experiences offered in cutting edge learning environments. His commitment to advancing education equity has resulted in every Hampton student being connected with college and career pathway opportunities in our community through every level of their educational track. 

In a letter to Smith from Virginia Superintendent of Public Education, Dr. James Lane states, “Your contribution is a continuation of the legacy Mary Peake began – a true testament to the ongoing journey towards education equity – an inspiration to us all. As a Commonwealth, we are committed to ensuring that our public education system is positioned to achieve equitable academic outcomes for all students, a value Mary Peake held deeply. We rely on equity champions like you, who work tirelessly each day to ensure that we reach this goal. I cannot thank you enough for your contributions and commitment to this work. Your support of Virginia students is truly invaluable.”

Smith is a recipient of the 2019 Peninsula Humanitarian Award from the Peninsula Chapter of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (February 2019) and the recipient of the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the 100 Black Men of Virginia Peninsula, Inc. (April 2019). He was also named the Region II Superintendent of the Year (2018-2019), the 2020 Virginia Superintendent of the Year, and was recognized as a finalist for the AASA 2020 National Superintendent of the Year.
Smith was honored as the recipient of the 2020 Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education Equity by Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and Lane at a virtual recognition event on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

During the ceremony Smith shared, “As a school division, this is an honor for us. On a personal note, I am humbled by this significant moment in my career and life as I share this time with other honorees. To be recognized for any accomplishment that is laced and associated with Mary Peake is nothing short of being absolutely amazing and humbling. It is humbling because Mary Peake’s legacy of impact sets the standard for all of us. The fact that her life’s mission is deeply rooted in Hampton, Virginia makes this moment even more special for us and me in particular. Each day when we arrive to our school buildings and offices where we fulfill the mission of our school division of ‘Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes,’ we are not only reminded of the sacrifices of Mary Peake and so many others who came before us but we embrace the reality that every young person who enters our doors can achieve, that each young person is deserving of the opportunities to achieve, and that we have a personal responsibility to provide the appropriate resources in support of each student’s success and achievement.”

Read more about the Mary Peake Educational Equity Award winners from The Virginia Department of Education’s news release.