As Salado High School Principal Burt Smith presented the class of 2013 to students, parents and educators, the pride in his voice was evident.

The students who walked across the stage Thursday night represented the end of Smith’s first year as principal, and another milestone in a 21-year career in education.

“It was a great year,” Smith said. “I really think everyone had a positive experience.”

It’s also clear Smith leaves a lasting impression on his students. During his time at Salado ISD, Smith made changes to the dress code and other policies after getting input from students and their parents.

“It’s about listening them, and giving them a voice,” he said. “The students here understand that the changes we make also put more responsibility on them, and they did a great job taking on that responsibility.”

Watching and listening to Smith speak during the graduation ceremony, it was easy to see the kind of bond he has with the students. I got the sense that he knew every senior in the class of 116.

Smith came to Salado from Shepton High School in the Plano Independent School District. The district boasted more than 55,000 students, including more than 8,000 high-schoolers.

“I enjoyed my job (at Shepton), but the district is very large, and you don’t get the chance to really get to know all your students,” Smith said. “(In Salado), I really got to know each of the seniors, and it was very rewarding.”

Smith said he also got to know students and their families outside of school, thanks to the small community.

“You see these kids and their families out shopping, at restaurants, we go to church with them,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience and I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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