Miller is starting his 13th year as a superintendent, and he talks in this episode about transitions as a superintendent and how a new superintendent can connect with a new community.
“I was at a really good place coming to Lakota because it happened so early in the superintendent search process,” Miller says. “The Board here at Lakota did a really good job of letting me have transition days, which I think is huge for any school board, any superintendent to work out transition details.”
Transition days allowed Miller to come down on days when school wasn’t in session, like on weekends, spring break, pretty much any time he could get boots on the ground to get to know the new school and community.
“I was able to put my eyes on the learning spaces for our kids down here at Lakota, which was very helpful,” Miller says.
Since Lakota has 23 schools, Miller’s transition time included visiting all the schools in the district and talking to as many people as he could. He wanted to get to know the facilities and the spaces that would be in his new district.
Plus, he says that it was valuable for him to transition into the community before it was time for the outgoing superintendent to leave.
“You’re absolutely right that the timing does make a difference,” Dorn-Bell says. “If you’re officially hired in February as opposed to August, that’s a big difference.”
Miller says it was valuable for him to have the extra time to talk with staff and plan for the upcoming year. He says technology allowed him to communicate with his new community at Lakota while remaining in the Cleveland area through the end of the year. He says between emails and videos, he was able to connect with his new community.
Dorn-Bell says the fact that Miller embraces technology makes a big difference in his ability to successfully connect with his school district.
“Social media can have a big impact on a new superintendent coming into a district,” Miller says. “Social media is huge, not just here in Ohio, but across the country, and we can learn from others by what they put out to their staff.”
Miller says that a few pictures with a sentence or two about what you’re doing can go a long way with students, staff, parents and the community. For him, sharing some of his personality in his posts during his transition period helped the Lakota community get to know him before he officially started, even though he didn’t mention anything about Lakota on social media until he finished his last day at the previous school.
In addition to connecting with the community via technology, if the previous superintendent still lives in the area, they can be a fantastic resource on the community.
“I’ve been lucky at Lakota as two previous superintendents reached out to me,” Miller says. “That was huge for me to get their perspective on their time here.”
Miller says that for him, regular community conversations with his staff have been a great way to connect. Monthly coffee connections have also been a great way to answer questions from the community at a local coffee shop as well.
Miller recommends that a new superintendent spends a lot of time listening, especially at the beginning. And then he asks questions to clarify and learn about the community.
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