For the first time, the Commit Partnership has a president. Dottie Smith, who has led the organization’s Best in Class effort for the last year, started in the role this month.
It’s a significant step for the 7-year-old, education-focused nonprofit, which brings together more than 200 institutions toward a goal of more equitable schooling for all. Commit CEO Todd Williams said late last year that with staff approaching 50 people, he’d be launching a search for the position.
He didn’t have to look far. Smith moved to Dallas a year ago to head Best in Class, a piece of Commit that focuses on getting top talent to historically underperforming schools. With Smith’s leadership, the Coalition has helped institute the Accelerated Campus Excellence program—which incentivizes the best teachers to the schools that need it most and has been a part of the turnaround at Dallas ISD—to several other school districts in DFW.
“We have so many stories and so many data points of how kids who grow up in poverty who get the right resources and great talent and a great school—they do just as well as their affluent peers,” Smith says.
Smith’s career started with Teach For America in Compton, California, where she taught second graders. She served as secondary principal of a Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, and then worked from Las Vegas for New York-based The New Teacher Project, leading teacher preparation and development.
She’s from Connecticut, and was the first person in her family to graduate college.
“Part of the reason why I chose to do this work was that I—and I’m a white woman, so I have more privileges than most of the students that I represent have—but my family was just poor,” says Smith. “I had a happy childhood, but education for me changed my whole life and it changed my family’s life.”
In a blog post, Williams adds this:
“The success of our growing Partnership is incredibly dependent on the trust we’ve created with our partners and the talent imbedded with the Partnership’s backbone team. Dottie brings a deep commitment to the potential of every child in our community and tremendous skill sets to the role of President. We’re thrilled she has taken this role on and we look forward to seeing where her increased leadership role will help take us.”