To Superintendent Jarrett, the story is king

The older I get, the more I notice generational differences in communication. Younger people really are more adept at some of the go-to social media tools, such as Twitter. However, there’s something universal about good communication — especially, the power of stories to move people.

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Ehren Jarrett will have been on the job a year in July. Already, he’s being noticed statewide for his skill in communicating. He was one of the contributors to the March edition of Leadership Matters, the online magazine of the Illinois Association of School Administrators. The theme of the edition was outreach and the use of social media; Dr. Jarrett’s column addressed his strategies for connecting with staff and the community.

Dr. Ehren Jarrett meets with McIntosh students at a reading celebration in February.

Dr. Ehren Jarrett meets with McIntosh students at a reading celebration in February.

Dr. Jarrett knew that being the seventh superintendent in 10 years in RPS 205 would bring its own set of challenges. As he wrote in the column:

Your most brilliant plan will be foiled unless your employees believe you genuinely want to listen and are committed to frequent and honest communication. I have been very open with my staff and the public about the turnover in the top job and how that works against building a culture of collaboration and engagement.

Among his communication strategies: last year’s redesign of the rps205.com website, a listening tour of every school building and district department this year; speaking engagements at organizations like the Kiwanis, business districts and the Cosmopolitan Club.

In the column, Dr. Jarrett was candid about the learning curve when you go from being a principal of a school with 2,200 students and 200 employees (Hononegah) to running a school district with 29,000 students and 3,800 employees (RPS).

Even when I didn’t know exactly what kind of leader I wanted to be, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be a caricature. I wanted to be real and authentic, as opposed to that person who turns up every Tuesday night on the public access channel.

This blog is one of the ways the district — and Dr. Jarrett — honor the power of the story in developing a relationship. He may not know all of you yet, but he’s working on it.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator at the Rockford Public Schools.







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