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parents are the key

2019 Superintendent of the Year Emphasizes: 'Parents Hold the Key'

curtis-jonesWhen Dr. Curtis Jones Jr. was named the 2019 National Superintendent of the Year at last week’s AASA National Conference, it came as little surprise to the colleagues and partners he’s worked with the last four years as the leader of Georgia’s Bibb County Public Schools.

“Dr. Jones is, by far, a leader who is on the cutting-edge of 21st century educational leadership,” says Dominique Nichols, a Bibb County teacher and the 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year Runner-Up, in a release announcing Dr. Jones’ recognition.

“He embodies an undeniable passion for teaching and learning and has a keen sense of how to encourage and cultivate gifts in teachers, support staff, and leaders. His no-nonsense approach to leadership and accountability has created a high-performance culture in Bibb that has ultimately led to marked growth and improvement — both in our performance and in stakeholders’ perception.”

The district’s rising graduation rate is one clear sign of Dr. Jones’ leadership.

Between 2014 and 2018, Bibb County’s graduation rate has improved from south of 60 percent to nearly 80 percent, a marker of steady progress toward meeting Dr. Jones’ goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2025.

But, improving graduation rates is just one part of Dr. Jones’ Victory in Our Schools strategic plan, which features five core areas of focus:

  1.    Increasing student achievement
  2.    Learning and growth
  3.    Increasing teac­­her and leader effectiveness
  4.    Being a reliable organization
  5.    Increasing student and stakeholder engagement

Bring parents into the conversation

One of key groups that Dr. Curtis and his team sought to better engage with was parents.

“Parents are the key,” Dr. Jones says in a recent video (watch below). “They entrust their students and their children to us everyday. And, they believe that we will treat them as our own.”

But when Dr. Jones became superintendent at Bibb, it quickly became clear that the district wasn’t doing everything it could to ensure parents had a strong voice in the district.

“When Dr. Jones started his initial listening tour as a superintendent in spring 2015,” said Stephanie Hartley, Bibb County Public Schools’ director of communications, in a recent webinar hosted by K12 Insight, ­“one of the things he heard from parents and stakeholders was that they would call their schools or the central office with an issue or concern, and that no one would return their calls. We wanted a way to show parents and community members that customer service and school climate are important to us.”

To improve the conversation between the school district, parents, and other stakeholders, the district partnered with K12 Insight to launch Let’s Talk!.

Accessible via a tab or button on the school district website, or via mobile app, K12 Insight’s customer service and community engagement solution enables parents, students, staff, and others to engage with district leaders around important issues when it makes sense for them.

Whether the feedback comes in via email, the school district website, social media, or over the phone, a universal inbox feature ensures that every message is logged and immediately routed to the right person or team of people in the school to issue a timely response.

On the backend, district leaders get a dashboard featuring key metrics, such as number of inquiries received, average response times, recurring themes, and an average customer feedback score.

Dr. Jones at luncheon

Dr. Jones says that a focus on improved communication and customer service, coupled with the Let’s Talk! platform, has enabled the district to get serious about how school district staff engage and respond to parents and other community members:

“That’s a program where a parent or anyone in the community can go online or even give a call to the office and say, ‘Here’s a concern. Here’s a compliment. Here’s something you ought to know.’ And what we commit to doing is getting back to that individual within three business days with feedback. They don’t always like the feedback, but the key is we told them and we’re being honest and if we’re able to do that I think that has allowed parents to realize we’re being receptive.”

Making progress

So far, that approach has exceeded expectations—the average response time across the district is one business day and the average customer experience rating received from the community is 8.6 out of 10.

For Dr. Jones, school improvement is a perpetual work in progress. It’s why Bibb County Public Schools staff operate under the motto: Victory in Progress. But Dr. Jones’ focus on the customer experience and stronger community engagement is clearly having an impact—and his Superintendent of the Year honor is well-deserved evidence of that fact.

For more on how Dr. Jones and his team have improved their schools through strong customer experience, be sure to watch our on-demand webinar “How to empower your front-line leaders.