That was Burlington's new interim school superintendent's assessment of the role he's stepping into. School board members introduced Howard Smith, a recently retired Tarrytown, N.Y., superintendent to reporters at the Hunt Middle School on Monday afternoon.
Smith has agreed to serve as superintendent through the end of the school year but doesn't plan to seek the position permanently. He said the temporary nature of his position will allow him to be "brutally objective."
He's taking over at a pivotal time. The administration is beginning to prepare its budget for next year, which promises to be a contentious process. Residents rejected the school budget for the first time in years last March and since then a series of financial errors and subsequent budget cuts have created more frustration.
Smith said bringing "financial stability" to the district is one of his main goals.
Asked why he wasn't interested in seeking the position permanently, Smith told reporters, "I do have other interests and have reached a point where I'm happy that I don't have to ... work full-time indefinitely."
Smith began his remarks by thanking the previous interim leadership team, which resigned abruptly due to a strained relationship with members of the school board. "I don't think it was on any of their bucket lists, " he commented.
But is it on his? Smith cited his fondness of Burlington — where he has family — when explaining why he wanted the job. "This selfishly gives me an opportunity to spend more time here than I otherwise would have felt I could."
He expressed confidence that he'll be able to get along with the board, describing the commissioners as "at a place where they are ready to move forward."
Sitting beside him, board chair Patrick Halladay chimed in to point out that the school board has committed to becoming more functional. The board, Halladay said, has started to work toward that goal.
Mayor Miro Weinberger, who has been critical of the school board at times, weighed in on the appointment in a statement. "I am optimistic that Dr. Smith will provide critical leadership and a smooth transition at a very important time for our school district. My administration is committed to working with Dr. Smith, his team, and the school board to promote the best interests of the children in our community."