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Building Trust with the Community Yields High Dividends: Lessons from a Superintendent

When planning for your district’s future, actively demonstrate comprehensive communication and a commitment to excellence. Involve the entire community intentionally to build trust, a key factor in fostering effective partnerships within your organization and extending to those you serve. Mayfield City Schools showcased these principles in their recent planning process, providing valuable insights applicable to any engagement approach you might consider.

The only reason why we were able to do this is because the community has trust in the district.
Dr. Michael Barnes, Mayfield City Schools Superintendent

Dr. Michael Barnes, Superintendent of Mayfield City Schools in Ohio, recently presented during a breakout session at Studer Education’s annual What’s Right in Education leadership conference. Reflecting on his 31-year journey in education, Dr. Barnes recognized the unique challenges that come with being a superintendent, especially when dealing with a diverse community. He humorously noted, “In terms of street cred, I have a significant amount, but that doesn’t come without its challenges because they feel that they have access to you all the time.”

Returning to Mayfield during the complexities of the COVID-19 era, Dr. Barnes identified a pervasive issue: a breakdown of trust within the school community. The challenge was formidable — reestablishing trust that had eroded during a period of uncertainty and division. To tackle this, Dr. Barnes implemented strategic approaches, focusing on mindset, a 100-day transition plan, and the “four anchors of trust” — access, relationships, stakeholder involvement, and progress monitoring feedback.

The transformative impact of rebuilding trust became evident in Mayfield City Schools’ achievements. The district saw a remarkable 10-point improvement in its overall achievement score, earning a prestigious five-star rating from the state of Ohio.

Dr. Barnes highlighted that the community’s trust enabled the implementation of innovative approaches, such as a fully personalized learning experience at the high school level. This initiative demonstrated the dividends of trust, empowering the district to create an environment where students thrive and achieve. As Dr. Barnes concluded, “The only reason why we were able to do this is because the community has trust in the district,” underscoring the pivotal role of trust in shaping the future of education in Mayfield City Schools.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Think differently.

By questioning, “How do we know we’re winning?” educators are prompted to think differently about success, emphasizing the need for both qualitative and quantitative data to gauge the effectiveness of educational initiatives.

Plan differently.

The 100-day transition plan presented by Dr. Barnes serves as a blueprint for educational leaders facing challenges in trust and community engagement. Crafting this plan prioritizes trust-building through open communication, positive relationships, and community engagement.

Act differently.

Seize the transformative power of community trust to implement innovative, fully personalized learning experiences, revolutionizing traditional educational models and prioritizing individualized student growth.

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