Host Joel Gagne speaks with David Axner, the deputy executive director of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators. David shares his experiences as a superintendent, his thoughts on promoting ballot initiatives, and what the Buckeye Association of School Administrators does for current and future school administrators.
David explains that BASA is the organization for school superintendents in Ohio to come together, and he says that the majority of Ohio superintendents are members. He says that coaching inspired him to start teaching, and that evolved into years in education.
David’s last superintendency was at Dublin City Schools, a high-performing school district in Ohio. Joel asks him to share some of the success stories that he experienced at Dublin as well as previous school districts.
David shares that he thinks doing homework to truly understand the community is important. He says that while in Dublin they thought they were communicating effectively, and with a bit of Joel’s help, they were able to learn that they were missing about 50% of the Dublin community in their communications. He says meetings with community members to get opinions went a long, long way to connect with people who were no longer connected with the pubic schools.
“You can’t get faked out; you’ve gotta make sure you’re communicating 100% throughout the district,” David says.
“I think now in the age of technology, and I’ve said this on multiple podcasts, that schools need to be not only aggressively communicating, but also marketing themselves about the things that they’re doing and actually taking a bow,” Joel says.
Joel asks if David has any suggestions on best practices with effectively communicating with the community.
David shares that for him, walking door-to-door while promoting ballot initiatives is a powerful example of how he feels about communicating. He says it’s important to get out and really talk to members of the community. It was powerful for him to hear senior citizens telling each other the stories he shared with them while walking door-to-door.
He says that promoting ballot initiatives is a really big part of being a superintendent in Ohio, and that’s when you truly find out what community members think.
David says that for him over the years, two things were very important. One, he always connected with the students. Two, at every single level he communicated the same message. He said they brought in different groups, such as students, teachers and senior citizens, to share the message.
“Don’t let the media tell your story, you tell the story,” David says.
Joel agrees that teachers are the walking ambassadors for each school. If someone runs into a teacher at a grocery store and asks how things are going at the school, that’s the perfect time for a good message to be shared.
Joel asks if he’s seeing that the demands that are put on superintendents today are becoming too intimidating to potential leaders, and David believes absolutely yes.
He says that when he speaks with potential superintendents, he shows a photo of his family (including his six children) and talks about how easy it can be to let the job take over and family and personal health can suffer. He says it’s all about finding balance.
David explains that BASA tries to support school superintendents by helping them find balance and tackle other challenges that superintendents face. The organization also lobbies for superintendents, provides professional development, networking opportunities and more.
Joel says that like in sports, organizations like BASA help superintendents come up with a game plan for the year.
When asked what he thinks would improve public schools, David says that in an ideal world, there would be more funding and less regulations.
When asked what one book he would recommend to our listeners, David recommends “Lead…for God’s Sake!”
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