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Smith School Celebrates Its New Name

Former Board of Education President Bobbie Smith joined Long Beach Unified School District officials, community members, the student body of Smith Elementary School and a Grammy-winning singer at the official renaming ceremony held recently at the school.

The Board of Education had approved the renaming of Burnett Elementary School to Smith Elementary School in September. Bobbie Smith was the first African American member on LBUSD’s school board, where she served from 1988 to 2004. She completed four terms as president on the school board during major reforms that earned national recognition, including the implementation of school uniforms and standards-based instruction, and she worked for more than 20 years as a librarian at Long Beach City College.

“Today I feel like I won a Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony award all rolled into one,” Smith told an audience of about 1,000 students and guests on the playground. “There’s an abbreviation for that. It’s called a GEOT – Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, Tony – and not too many people have accomplished that. You can also add to that list, ‘Lifetime Achievement Award,’ because that’s how this feels.”

Smith is a life member and Golden Heritage member of the Long Beach Branch NAACP, life member and past president of the National Council of Negro Women in Long Beach, and the recipient of numerous honors and awards from national and local organizations. She lives in Long Beach.

Among those joining Smith for the ceremony were current school board members, LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser, former Superintendent Carl A. Cohn and Grammy-honored singer Thelma Houston, who attended Burnett as a child. A friend of the Smith family, the singer earned enthusiastic applause for a soulful rendition of God Bless America.

Smith also was presented with a commemorative plaque from the Long Beach School Library Association.

Board of Education Vice President Felton Williams, who holds the same board district seat that Smith held until her retirement, told the audience that Smith serves as a role model for students who come from all walks of life.

“She has always stood for the right things, and she has done so with dignity and grace. In the process, she helped to put our school district on the map nationally,” Williams said. “Bobbie has been a courageous leader whose lifelong work – including her many key decisions while serving on the school board – was always guided by what’s best for students. Thank you, Bobbie, for all that you have done for our students and schools. Congratulations on this very well-deserved honor.”

DVD copies of the six-minute ed.news video segment accompanying this article are available from the Office of Multimedia Services for $7. Contact Patricia Witthuhn at pwitthuhn@lbschools.net.

SCHOOL’S NAMESAKE – Former Board of Education President Bobbie Smith speaks during the naming ceremony for Bobbie Smith Elementary School, formerly Burnett Elementary.