ACSA Partner Content

The new superintendents guide to community engagement

The Association of California School Administrators is the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the United States, serving more than 17,000 California educators.

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Building trust "Being chosen does not mean being trusted. New superintendents have won over the school board by being hired, but the bigger challenge is to gain the trust of the local community—and other civic leaders." – The Superintendent Survival Guide 2 We live in a me when public trust in government, academia, educa on and just about every other societal ins tu on is at an all- me low. As of 2013, just 22 percent of people reported having a "great deal of confidence" in public school leaders. 3 So, whether you're coming into a district with an entrenched culture of mistrust, looking to rebuild broken rela onships due to a breach of trust by the previous leadership, or simply laying the groundwork of confidence in your new leadership, building trust is an essen al component for success in your role. Through our work with districts across the na on, we've learned that building trust requires an open, two-way discourse that results in le ng people know they've been heard. As Dr. Vannasdall explains: We make lots of decisions for parents who trust us with their children, their most prized possessions. If you don't build that trust, then they're not going to follow you when you make those big decisions. How do you build trust? You have to listen to people. You engage with them. You have to ask them ques ons and they have to know you care about what they're saying; that you're listening to it; that you're reading it; and you're reac ng to it. Thoughtexchange can help build this kind of trust for a new superintendent through an introductory exchange we call a "Weather Report." A Weather Report generally involves using an Advanced Exchange to ask your community a single, open-ended ques on: "What are some things you think our schools are doing well, and some things we can focus on in order to improve?" Asking this ques on, le ng people respond confiden ally in their own words, and then showing them they've been heard by either acknowledging or ac ng on their input, is o en enough to begin building trust and confidence. And, by doing this, you're not just gathering priori es but also helping the community learn through effec ve sharing of informa on about the district. "Thoughtexchange is just that," says Dr. Vannasdall. "It's an exchange. It's not a survey. You're asking people for their opinion, reflec ng on those opinions, collec ng those opinions from a lot of different voices and then taking ac on on them. When the community sees you doing that, they know they're in good hands." Ge ng the lay of the land "Where to begin? You need to know how things are done around here… I recommend school district leaders review and assess the district and school culture, par cularly the learning culture. How do we learn about how things get done around here?" — Gene Medina, Re red Superintendent, North Kitsap School District 4 2 2 h p://www.scholas cle.jsp?id=3758209 3 The Superintendent's Fieldbook - h ps:// 4 The Superintendent's Fieldbook - h ps://

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