Superintendent community engagement a matter of evaluating all options
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services
During a couple of recent KSBA training sessions on the Superintendent Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, several school board members spoke of one measure they use in their annual evaluation of the district’s top administrator: how well she or he is involved with the community.
Each cited at least one example of the superintendent’s engagement with local groups or the public at large – acts that the board member judged important beyond the academic and operational leadership of the district.
Those exchanges got me thinking: with the dramatic superintendent turnover Kentucky continues to see, how many unique illustrations of superintendent involvement in the community are being lost when the practitioners retire or otherwise leave the field?
So I reached out to a pool of more than three dozen superintendents – from those in their first contracts to others with much more than a decade leading school systems – to see what they would be willing to share, for their peers, their colleagues’ board members and others who aspire to a position where simply leading from inside the silo of the central office doesn’t cut it anymore.
Here are as many of those examples shared as space in this column allows. My sincere thanks to the superintendents who shared insights into their engaging activities.
*represents suggestions by multiple respondents
Active member of civic groups such as Rotary, Lions*
Regular attendee at Chamber of Commerce functions*
Attend civic group meetings with principals
Serving on boards of local organizations such as Boys and Girls Club*
Weekly information programs on local radio stations*
Participating in small group discussions in people’s homes
Member of our Work Ready Community planning team*
Hosting community forums on district issues
Texting with key community members
Regularly attend meetings such as fiscal court, city councils*
Social media blogs, Facebook, Twitter*
Accept leadership roles in community-wide initiatives*
Record a summary of board meetings for local radio newscasts
Attend every school-related event possible – academic, band and sports competitions, art shows, fall festivals and parades*
Eat at local restaurants*
Shop in local businesses as often as possible*
Talking and listening to people wherever I go
Relay for Life master of ceremonies
Contributing regular articles to local newspaper*
Get my car serviced at local garage
Walking around between our schools, our community
Attending a local church*
Making sure public is aware of important meetings, events
Personally invite key community members to be involved in district issues
Go to lunch with our mayor and city council members
Do my personal banking at the teller counter instead of the drive through
Take all calls and meet with as many people as possible who visit our office
Meet with local news media people at least once a year
Talk to people about our district’s vision
Participated in our “Leadership XXXX County” class and helped expand it for youth leadership training
Was part of team that helped create a formal education and business community partnership
Encourage people to follow/friend our district on Facebook, Twitter*
Record personal audio messages to go with emails, especially when something bad happens
The Last Word
To me, there was nothing shocking, but there were several innovative activities on that list. And obviously it would take a super superintendent to be engaged in even half of those examples during a single year.
Kentucky’s superintendents are leaders of workforces of educators, in many cases the largest employers in their communities. They manage multimillion dollar budgets, with fleets and buildings and campuses. But they also are men and women who buy, eat, drive and otherwise live as members of their district’s communities. And the successful ones engage those communities in a vast variety of ways.
And that’s a message worth getting out.