New dean brings fresh perspective and rich experience



New Dean of Students Lisa Gilbert-Smith’s experiences as a student and a teacher have influenced the way she works with her students to help them successfully pursue their goals.

Elsie Wessels-Mains, Staff Writer

Growing up, Dean Lisa Gilbert-Smith attended The Boston Technical High School(now called the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science). She was living in poverty and working full time, and often did not attend school regularly. She was a straight A student, but no one noticed her absences. Nobody was paying attention.

“It really blew my mind that there could be a student in a school that could just be completely unnoticed in some ways. I always wanted to go back to schools to notice people,” Gilbert-Smith said. “I wanted to try to make school better for other students because my experience had not been so good.”

Gilbert-Smith is bringing her own experiences as a student, teacher and principal in Boston to the high school.

Gilbert-Smith joined the Brookline community this year, replacing the spot that former Dean Scott Buchart vacated following his retirement. Many applied for this position, but Gilbert-Smith’s extensive administrative experience from working at Boston Public Schools stood out to the interview committee, according to Headmaster Anthony Meyer.

“She has a really engaging personality. I think she has a real ability to tell the truth and share her perspective and be clear about why she’s come to that perspective. I really thought that was important for our leadership team,” Meyer said. “And she had incredible letters of recommendations and references from the people in the Boston Public Schools.”

All the deans and curriculum coordinators meet weekly to talk about common practices, policies and procedures. Dean of Students Lisa Redding and Gilbert-Smith often work as a team, specifically on discipline issues and protocol.

“We have a lot of laughs together. We have a lot of similarities, I feel, personally, so it’s fun getting together to talk about what she’s done with different situations,” Redding said.

Dean Gilbert-Smith intends to foster student growth academically and socially by paying attention to the needs of each individual.

Gilbert-Smith’s co-workers also recognize the perspective she has from working in Boston.

“Gilbert-Smith has so much experience after over two decades of working in Boston, so she brings a really fresh and different look at things,” Redding said.

Gilbert-Smith started out as a health careers teacher at the Edward M. Kennedy School for Health Careers in Boston but later became more interested in administrative work.

“I was always thinking about what was happening schoolwide,” Gilbert-Smith said. “I knew that I had to find something different because I wanted to work with students more intimately just in terms of finding out more about why they acted the way that they did.”

Gilbert-Smith initiated her leadership experience as a principal at The Dearborn STEM Academy in Boston. Gilbert-Smith worked with many students who were struggling economically and needed to focus her attention on supplying her students with food, shelter, clothing and basic needs.

For example, Gilbert-Smith brought in a group called Catie’s Closet to the Boston Public School community. This program supplied students with clothes so that they didn’t have to miss school and could feel more confident.

“It’s different here because most people have what they need,” Gilbert-Smith said. “I feel like I can spend a lot more of my time and attention and really focus on working with the students here and what their individual needs might be.”

Another aspect of Gilbert-Smith’s experience relevant to her current position is that she was part of the building renovation at Edward M. Kennedy School for Health Careers. With this experience, Gilbert-Smith will be a helpful resource for the ongoing expansion projects at the high school.

However, she is still discovering new things about her position as she adjusts to the Brookline community. For example, during this year’s Legislature elections for the senior class, Gilbert-Smith made the decision to have students re-do the speeches, because she did not feel that they took it seriously enough the first time. However, she was surprised by the strong reaction of students to her decision.

“I feel like there are going to be times like that, because I’m new to the community, I step on something that I don’t know is even there and I’ll have to have it explained to me,” Gilbert-Smith said.  

She is excited to bring her sense of humor, genuine care for the students and encouragement to the students.

Looking forward, Gilbert-Smith wants students to use the dean’s office as a place to come talk about their days, good news and bad news, as well as discussing their issues. She wants to develop personal connections with students.  

“I look at my role as one that is here to support and here to encourage,” Gilbert Smith said. “If there are things that don’t go so well, I’m here to help students sort through why it didn’t go so well and to hopefully help them make different decisions in the future, that will lead toward them accomplishing out their hopes, dreams and goals.”