Who is Mr. Smith?
Our school was named in honor of Mr. Edward Smith, Syracuse’s most prominent educator of the second half of the 19th century. He was born more than 200 years ago in Skaneateles and began his teaching career in 1837. After working in Kentucky and Cattaraugus County, New York, Smith came to Syracuse in 1845, two years before Syracuse was incorporated as a city. He went on to serve for twenty-five years as a teacher and principal, and twenty-three consecutive years as the superintendent of city schools.
Smith wrote a history of the city school system that was published in 1893, which is available online. A biographical sketch in the book, written by A.B. Blodgett, noted, “The public schools of this city, in themselves the essential product of Mr. Smith's life-long labors, present the most worthy testimony of what he has accomplished.
Mr. Smith died in 1909 at the age of 91 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery (Section 41, Lot 6).
by Don Little
Edward Smith is a fascinating individual to reflect upon. He was clearly a force of nature and an individual with vision. In examining his 48 years of employment in the district, one can see many elements of his personality. He was clearly an affable and sincere person who commanded the respect of those around him. The fact that the community appointed him to leadership positions continuously suggests that he possessed superior leadership qualities and strong emotional intelligence. He also possessed a progressive vision that is clearly more compassionate than many of this time.
In 1866 and 1867, some of the events he highlighted in his history of the district depict his careful attention to those around him.
He referred to the district allowing an Onondaga Indian student to attend school at the request of his guardian. Not only did the district grant the request, he noted that the student attended without cost. In a time where the Indian Wars were beginning to rage in the west, it is a powerful inclusion of our community.
In March 1867, the school board banned the use of corporal punishment. This radical policy was certainly far more progressive than many communities were. His commentary on this policy demonstrated his strong leadership. He acknowledged the concerns of his teachers and expressed his observations of the impact on classrooms of the district.