With the mayor, superintendent of schools and much of the school board standing behind her, Smith stood at a small podium in front of the high school and read from a prepared statement. When it was over, she turned and quickly went back inside the school.
Smith lamented the "international notoriety" of her decision to ban Tate from the prom after he and two friends taped a note asking a girl to the prom on the side of the school.
"I never thought this would lead to international notoriety, as I make tough, unpopular decisions on a daily basis. I have considered the effect this incident has had on the individual student, the entire student body and my staff and the Shelton community. ... Throughout the past week, the level of distraction created by this incident has affected the culture of Shelton High School, one that I have worked hard to establish."
But she never actually said that Tate and his two friends, Andrew Boretsky and Christian Lombardi, could go to the prom. That was left to Schools Superintendent Freeman Burr and Mayor Mark Lauretti to do after Smith was gone.
"It's obvious from Dr. Smith's remarks that they can go," Burr said, even though it wasn't to many in attendance. "Yes, they can go," added Lauretti.
Tate and his parents didn't learn of the decision until they were told by a reporter and photographer in the driveway of their Waverly Road home.
"I heard there was some kind of decision, but I didn't really know what was happening," said Tate. "I'm feeling great. I'm glad the correct decision was finally made. But I also feel bad that Dr. Smith was put in this position. I understand she has to maintain a position as a disciplinarian. It's not the policy that needs to be changed, it's the punishment."
Asked by his father if his date for the prom, Sonali Rodrigues, was going to be coming over to hear the news, Tate replied: "No, she went to the movies."
As for Tate's next move: "I have one final farewell to say on the `Today' show and then, hey, I'm going to the prom," he added. Next fall he will be attending Syracuse University, his parents' alma mater.
The high school seniors were banned from the prom for posting a message May 6 on the school building made with cut-out letters, in which Tate asked his friend, Rodrigues, to be his date. Days after that, Tate, Boretsky and Lombardi were suspended for one day and told they could not go to the prom.
But on Saturday, Shelton school officials, who had remained firm on the prom ban, had a change of heart.
In fact, Burr said, "For us gentlemen, James Tate has set for us a new standard for romanticism." He added, "Principals have to make difficult decisions every day. No one could have anticipated this kind of response."
Smith admitted that "international notoriety" on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter caused her to reverse her decision. The headmaster said she never thought that Tate's ban from the prom would cause such a firestorm across the Web. The incident may have also affected Smith personally. Shelton police confirm they have had several officiers guarding the headmaster at school and her home. Sgt. James Millington said Smith had received several calls to her home where the callers mysteriously hung up. He also said police investigated damage on Smith's car tires, but could not determine whether it was an act of vandalism.
"We're just glad this is over," Millington said.
Some of the social media posts had a darker, meaner side. Smith, in particular, was a frequent target, with many calling for her to be held accountable or fired. Another one had a photo of Smith in front of a swastika with a Hitler-like moustache under her nose.
Tracey Tate, the mother of James Tate, said, "We were not told that James would be allowed to go to the prom. We heard there was going to be a press conference, but not what it was about. We just wanted everyone to be reasonable, to have a dialogue."
Members of the Shelton High School track team, who were holding a car wash at Echo Hose Ambulance on Saturday, said they were thrilled by Smith's reversal. "I think she realized that the punishment didn't fit the crime," said sophomore Tyler Chamberland. "He should be allowed to go to the prom, and I'm happy for him.
Added sophomore Patrick Matuska, "he has every right to go to the prom."
School officials met Saturday morning to iron out details on how they intend to reverse the decision to ban Tate from the senior prom. The delicate question was how to allow Tate to attend the prom after school officials were so insistent that he be banned.
"In an effort to maintain focus on teaching and learning," Smith said, "I have decided to implement alternate consequences on case-by-case basis, beginning with James Tate and for other students who received internal suspension after April 1, which would then permit some to attend the prom. This decision will allow Shelton High School to focus our classroom discussions on established curriculum and continue to encourage students to develop to their full potential."
After the Connecticut Post broke the news of the decision, Twitter and Facebook were buzzing. Comments on the "Let James Tate Go to the Prom" page on Facebook celebrated the news.
One post read: "She (Smith) didn't reverse her decision because it was the right thing to do, she caved to the pressure of us, all of us. Have a great time James Tate, Sonali and friends."
Another read, "Congrats to James and your friends so glad you can go to prom!!! I am sure you have a very different feeling about going now but have as much fun as you can! Beth, I am so glad that 196,860 people got to you!"
One post praised James Tate's parents: "Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Tate...your child brought many people together by his sweetness. You should be proud. I also admire your confidence in James. Your words in the TV interview I saw, reflect well, why James has the values he has. Parents are indeed their children's first teachers."
While some city officials have weighed in on the issue, missing last week were comments from Board of Education members. Some members said they were not ducking the issue, they just can't say anything in case the issue comes before them.
Many school board members did not return calls seeking comment on the issue. The ones that did said they couldn't discuss it.
Before Saturday's press conference, Burr's only public response was a short email Wednesday in which he acknowledged he was aware of the worldwide outcry over Tate being banned from the prom.
Last week, Lauretti said he didn't think the punishment fit the crime.
He said he was concerned by the lack of comments from Smith and Burr in the days following Tate's suspension.
"They should have been more public with the decision," he said.
Staff writer Anne Amato and Assistant Managing Editor James D. Shay contributed to this report.