Bladen native to head 200 schools in China

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — A Bladen County native is taking her experience in education back overseas.

This week, Jennifer Smith, principal of Tar Heel Middle School during the 2017-18 school year, announced she will be returning overseas as superintendent of 201 schools in China.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “The Chinese school system is extremely rigorous, and parents are very strict and demanding. I think it will be a good fit.”

The move to a foreign country is not the first for the educator. Prior to serving in Bladen County, she worked in South Korea, where she opened a new school as principal. Her career in education also led her to the Middle East, where she was superintendent of schools in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for six years. In the position, she supervised in excess of 500,000 students in more than 300 schools.

Following her service in Abu Dhabi, Smith made a move to Africa, where she served as continent education director for 17 countries. While there, she oversaw the education of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Dibouti, Eritrea, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“I don’t think this new venture will be as difficult as some of the other experiences I’ve had,” she explained. “In the Middle East, for example, we had high school kids driving to school in Bentleys and Rolls Royces, and teachers were millionaires. It’s very hard to impart to people like that the value of education. The people in China are already very serious about it.”

Smith made the move back to the United States to be with her aging mother and step-father in Bladen County, but says the move “just didn’t work out career-wise.”

She has signed a five-year contract with the system in Beijing.

Smith, who holds a Ph.D., is the daughter of Shirley Autry and the late Houston Smith. She has one daughter, Halle, a junior at Black Forest Academy, a private international boarding school in Germany.

“I’ve been blessed with so many wonderful opportunities in both my career and personal life,” she remarked. “Professionally and personally, I’ve always done my best to make a name for myself by my service to others. Throughout my career, the Lord has guided my footsteps to make a difference in the lives of so many children, educators, and parents around the world in the following countries: USA, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, the continent of Africa, and now China.

“China’s educational system is one of the most rigorous ones in the world, in which accountability standards, professionalism, and student achievement are top priorities,” said Smith. “I’m thrilled to be leading this educational journey for students, teachers, and parents of China.”

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal