Mr. Smith Goes to Lee

Lee's new principal arrives during a historic school year of change.

A+nod+to+Mr.+Smith%3A+Seniors+Deena+Boonum%2C+Arnoldo+Herrera%2C+and+Sandra+Flores+gather+with+principal+Alfonso+Smith+under+a+witty%2C+celebratory+banner.

Mar Acevedo

A nod to Mr. Smith: Seniors Deena Boonum, Arnoldo Herrera, and Sandra Flores gather with principal Alfonso Smith under a witty, celebratory banner.

Amanda Hurst, Staff Writer

This year, Lancer Nation welcomed its new principal, Mr. Alfonso Smith. “Who is he?” “Where did he come from?” and “What will he do?” were questions that filled Lee’s hallways in the weeks following the announcement of his arrival. 

Students had the opportunity to meet Mr. Smith at a mini-pep rally following the return from winter break–an event complete with dancing and a basketball competition. 

This spring, before the school closure, Smith sat down with Lance staff members to better explain his background and goals for Lee. 

Smith is a native of North Carolina. Before his service at Lee, Smith served as Director of Student Services and Associate Principal at Hayfield Secondary School. He also worked as a counselor at Bucknell Elementary and Mount Vernon High School. At Mount Vernon, he taught a leadership class and started a boys club called the MVP program.

 Smith wants Lee to become a school known for its inclusion and for diversity–an institution that embraces students from all walks of life with open arms. 

Smith explained how Lee is unique. He spoke on how the student body differs from many other schools in the county and how because of that, Lee’s teachers must also adapt a different approach from other schools in the county. “There are unique challenges for the teachers here, of having to work with a heterogenous group of students,” Smith said.

Smith wants to build a relationship with students, staff, parents and the community. He understands that one man alone cannot do this job; it takes an entire team. And within that team, individuals must be diverse in ideas and collaborate with open minds. 

Smith hopes to work with staff towards his goal of ensuring that all students are prepared for high school, working towards graduation requirements, and developing a plan for life after graduation. Smith acknowledged that there is no one path for a Lee graduate. A Lee graduate can pursue a variety of options: going straight into a four-year college,  a two-year college, pursuing an internship or trade opportunity, enlisting in the military, or joining the workforce.

“Just as the world is changing, we must have [students] who are equipped, ready, and prepared to do what they need to do be successful, with whatever success looks like for them,” Smith said. 

In the interview, Smith revealed that he alone was not the leader of the school’s name change movement but that this was a school board-driven decision. “It is just the timing of my arrival that matches with that of the school board’s decision on renaming Lee. But since I am coming in, I will get to work with all the parties involved in this decision,” Smith said.

Smith insisted that students can and should get involved with the naming process. Smith is excited to go through Lee’s name changing process together with us. 

For Lee to truly prosper, Smith believes we must look at one another as famiLEE. The effect of “famiLEE,” a phrase that we have heard repeated at Lee all school year, may influence how how outsiders view Lee High School. 

Smith touched on how he believes communities can either build up or break down their neighborhood schools. He conveyed that the Lee community must advocate for our school to offer a positive representation. “We have to tell our own stories. I don’t want people, especially people who have never been in our building, telling people ‘I heard this’ or ‘I heard that’ about Lee. We need to be the people that are here to be the loudest voices about what things are going on,” Smith said. 

It’s no secret Lee has a controversial reputation in the eyes of other FCPS high schools. Lee is the smallest high school in Fairfax County and the most diverse. It is easy for individuals to speak on our schools name in a negative tone. It needs to be Lee’s mission to shine light on the positives that the students, staff and community do everyday. 

To accomplish this, Smith believes that we must start the mission from within by encouraging the students to become involved with their community and vice versa. It takes a team. 

Smith stated quite a few times, throughout the interview that “There is strength in our diversity.” This is his message and his goal to insure Lee High School’s legacy is one that is honored and cherished. 

Smith is more than excited for the future of Lee High School. He may bring great change. Only time will tell. One thing is for certain, his charisma, integrity, and leadership skills, shine bright and bring hope to the Lee community.