The latest set of storms circling public education feel different from any we’ve faced before.
As an education executive leadership recruiter for school districts across the country, I have had a privileged front-row seat to national public education issues for nearly 50 years. Since my first superintendent search in 1974, hundreds of school boards have trusted me to recruit, develop, and engage their leadership teams.
Over the decades, I’ve seen generations of teachers move on to serve as administrators and become national figures. Highs and lows have come and gone in education, but the changes have always been manageable. However, this time feels different.
Political polarization, the chaos unleashed by social media, and the funding of public schools are serious threats, but the most common message I’ve heard is the concern that students, families, and communities no longer trust their school district leadership.
School districts provide a service. Yet, the way many districts deliver customer service hasn’t changed since I started in the industry 50 years ago. The seeds that grow into educational agenda disruptions, distrust in board-administration relations, or crises are usually sown by one mishandled phone call, social media interaction, or other customer experience. Too many school districts are neglecting the customer experience.
Encouraging steps are being taken by districts like Seattle Public Schools, Dallas Independent School District, and Atlanta Public Schools as they bring a 21st century customer service culture to their districts through advanced technologies, purposeful professional development, and intentional customer service strategies.
By leveraging the customer experience, these districts are on the path to reduced staff and student attrition, higher stakeholder satisfaction scores, and positive board-administration relationships.
Over the years, I’ve had many offers for partnerships with businesses and organizations attempting to solve problems within public education. Before K12 Insight, I turned down every one. Other organizations are focused on a single symptom of the issues public schools are facing, but K12 Insight understands the root cause: trust.
Without trust, you’ll never have success as a school leader — by deeply listening, working hard to deliver superior customer experiences, and collecting data to actively address community concerns, you can build trust. When you have data, it quiets the excess noise in the room.
It’s not 1974 anymore. In today’s uncertain educational climate, taking action on dependable truths by providing superior customer service is sure to lead to a more engaged and satisfied district community. And it could be the difference between a successful district and a struggling one five years from now.
As you reflect on the challenges your district is facing today, I’d like to encourage you to consider how you can improve the experience for every member of your school community.